President Barack Obama did two things on Friday that I agree with. As noted earlier, Obama announced the withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq by the end of the year (though it was not a principled decision) and he signed recently passed and much needed trade agreements:
President Barack Obama signed off Friday on the first three — and possibly last — free trade agreements of his administration, deals with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama that could be worth billions to American exporters and create tens of thousands of jobs.
The three deals were years in the making, and the difficulty of bringing them to fruition make it unlikely there will be another bilateral trade agreement during Obama’s current term.
Obama signed them with none of the ceremonial fanfare that normally accompanies such triumphs. Republicans, while supportive of the deals, continue to find fault with Obama’s trade policies. And nearly three-fourths of House Democrats voted against the trade measures.
The agreements will bring to 20 those countries that have free trade relations with the United States.
Given that House Democrats beholden to labor unions overwhelmingly opposed these agreements, it’s a break from a considerable chunk of his party’s base. And as recently noted, the White House also opposes a measure pushed by Senate Democrats that would start a trade war with China.
None of this is to say that Obama is now a free trader — after all, he was very anti-trade during the 2008 campaign, but this isn’t the hardline populist that many of us have come to be annoyed by. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.