Daily Archives: April 6, 2011

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is for BOEMRE

This post was written with help from intern Kathleen Barker and James Coan, Research Associate at the Baker Institute Energy Forum.

Regardless of whether or not there is a government shutdown on April 8th, it has become clear that the continuing budget problems in Washington could potentially have a significant adverse effect on the oil and gas industry. If the government shuts down, then the offshore permitting activities of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) that have just begun to pick up will also once again stop, albeit temporarily. Now is not a good time to lose momentum in getting BOEMRE on track.

Even if the government is not shut down, budgeting problems have already started to have and will continue to have a significant impact on all federal agencies, including BOEMRE. Currently, worries about a shutdown and where funding will come from are causing agencies to postpone new hiring. In the future, the potential for substantial budget cuts decrease the probability that BOEMRE will be able to rapidly increase its staff to the size needed to clear the additional safety restrictions put in place post-Macondo. If not enough regulators can be hired, it is likely that the permitting process will stay slow well into the future. Moreover, Americans want BOEMRE to be more effective than past agencies, not less so. Thus, a cut in spending for the new agency would be a mistake.

The federal budget commitment to BOEMRE should be going up, not down. That is because post-Macondo we now all realize what an important function this agency plays. We need the agency to be effective not only in processing permits so companies can get back to work in the Gulf coast but also so that we can be assured that permits that are approved have been properly vetted and that safety and environmental processes are being diligently considered.

Giving adequate funding to BOEMRE is a no-brainer. That is because smoother permitting and rising oil production on federal lands is good for government coffers. More wells mean more incoming tax and royalty revenue, which should more than offset the cost of hiring new regulators.

Bottom line: Funding increases to expand the size of BOEMRE’s team helps U.S. energy security, saves oil industry jobs, speeds up recovery in the Gulf Coast and raises important government revenue. So you would think BOEMRE would be an obvious agency not to be hit by budget cuts. Not so. Saving BOEMRE’s budget is highly unlikely politically and gets to one of the main reasons the current climate in Washington is so disconcerting: politicians consider their own partisan agendas that might be at odds with the nation’s.  A lot of time and effort went into finding solutions to the regulatory problems in the Gulf of Mexico. If we the voters thought it was worth the time and trouble to create a new system, we should certainly tell our Congressmen that we insist that the money be spent to implement them.

( Original Article )

FuelFix Blog

Obama Drilling Moratorium Cost Billions

Written by R. Cort Kirkwood

President Barack Obama’s imprudent moratorium on drilling for oil in the Gulf Of Mexico cost not only the Gulf region but also the nation billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs.

So said Joseph Mason, a professor at Louisiana State University in his testimony last week before the House Subcommitte on Energy and Power.

The negative impact of Obama’s six-month crack down on energy exploration in July 2010, Mason testified, which followed the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in May, is even worse that he originally estimated.

Dollar and job losses mounted daily during the moratorium, and not just because the oil workers lose jobs and stop producing oil. The region around the Gulf also depends on economic activity the drilling generates.

Obama lifted the moratorium in October, much to the regret of environmentalists.

The Losses

The subcommittee heard Mason deliver a shocking tally of the financial losses Obama imposed not on himself or his rent-seeking and corrupt political cronies, but on the hard-working oilmen who perform dangerous jobs to keep gasoline flowing into limousines of Washington’s political class.

Those losses are most easily seen in multiplier estimates updated for the additional length of the de facto moratorium on deepwater development. Using the same methods described in my earlier report – but accounting for delays following the official end of the moratorium – is it apparent that economic losses to the region continue to mount.

  1. … [O]utput losses continue to mount with stalled development in the Gulf, rising from $2.1 billion regionally and $2.8 billion nationally to $3.3 billion and $4.4 billion, respectively. Job losses are estimated to have increased from 8,000 regionally and 12,000 nationally to 13,000 regionally and 19,000 nationally. Lost wages previously estimated to amount to $500 million regionally and $700 million nationally are now $800 million
    regionally and $1.1 billion nationally. Finally, lost tax revenues estimated to be $100 million on the state and local level and $200 million on the national level now amount to $155 million and $350 million, respectively.
  2. Each day, more exploration and development activity in the Gulf is lost. The lost output will not be regained and the lost wages cannot be spent. We knew all along that even the most honorable businessmen could not support their workers without revenue income in the long term. We are now progressing into that long term. As rig workers and other employees directly related to oil and gas development tighten their belts or leave the region, the rest of the region suffers.

These completely predictable events are even worse than those Mason predicted after Obama slammed the door shut on drilling. Mason offered the bad news in his report, “The Economic Cost of a Moratorium on Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration to the Gulf Region,” published by the Institute for Energy Research.

Mason’s report explained basic economics, which Obama ignored. A drastic move such as Obama’s, Mason explained, would send a ripple of consequences through the economy; i.e., not just oil rig workers and their families are affected by such sweeping mandates. Others who run businesses that depend on the oil rig workers get hurt, too.

A significant halt to oil and natural gas exploration and drilling would not just affect upstream and downstream industries, but could also impact state and local governments, as well as small retail stores, education services, healthcare assistance, and a host of other industries.

The effective six-month moratorium on offshore oil and natural gas production will result in the loss of approximately $2.1 billion in output, 8,169 jobs, over $487 million in wages, and nearly $98 million in forfeited state tax revenues in the Gulf states alone. Additionally, although a significant portion of oil and natural gas production is localized in the Gulf, the U.S. is a fully integrated economy, so there is an expectation that the loss will “spill-over” into other states. From this spillover effect, there could be an additional loss of $0.6 billion in output, 3,877 jobs, and $219 million in potential wages nationwide. Moreover, the federal government stands to lose $219 million in tax revenue. These losses are dramatic in both the context of local economies in which the oil industry operates, and on a national scale.

Lifted

Obama lifted the moratorium in October but did not issue new permits until March. The first went to Royal Dutch Shell, the Houston Business Journal reported, for exploring in 3,000 feet of water about 130 miles offshore.

Obama’s chief drilling regulator says some oil companies have ignored the significance of the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The Gulf states weren’t the only region affected by Obama’s panic-button order to stop drilling for half a year. He also ended the sale of drilling leases off the coast of Virginia.

( Original Article )

LSU Economist: Obama Drilling Moratorium Cost Billions.

Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity, 2012

By Ellie Velinska

Progressive talking heads are fainting with excitement on TV over the Islamic world newly found love for democracy. Meanwhile, George Soros funded experts explain to the revolutionary crowds around the world that the reason they cannot afford food is America’s policy to cover the debt with make-believe dollars. They make it sound like the food will be plenty and affordable again if only somebody can get rid of the US dollar as the world currency. Does Mr. Soros care about the mother in Africa who puts her hungry child to sleep? Or is he cheering the humanitarian disaster with hope that it will put him in charge of the new world currency printing press?

Is President Obama ‘quantitivly easing’ his way to re-election or is he ready to get out of office in two years enjoying his life as the celebrity who ‘saved the world from the US dollar’?

The President of the United States is voting present on the fiscal crisis by proposing a budget with deficit over a trillion dollars. That means that Barack Obama is fine with another dose of the borrowing and ‘digitizing’ money: policy that is now deemed to be bloody across the world.

It doesn’t have to be this way. America can save the dollar as the world currency if the politicians stop the financial orgy of the US government. Leadership will not come from the progressives (democrats or republicans), because many of them are just fine with kicking the dollar until it comes home crippling making way for the new Open Society money masters.

Leadership can come from the old-fashioned Conservatives whose radical grandmothers thought them the trick of balancing the budget: don’t spend what you don’t have.

Paul Ryan presented the Republican Path to Prosperity budget balancing proposal. Parts of it make sense; parts of it are very disappointing.

Defense Department seems to be the only part of the government that is functioning in accordance to the reality. Secretary Robert Gates was able to organize house cleaning by collecting proposals for cuts internally so the Pentagon was ready with $178 billion in cuts and savings without waiting for Nancy Pelosi with the hammer, John Boehner with the hatchet and Barack Obama with the machete to appear at the door.

It is a strategy that makes sense. The bureaucrats can have much happier transition during the downsizing of the federal government if they follow the Defense Department lead and cut their own budget before Paul Ryan or other outsiders start digging in their yard. Unfortunately the Ryan’s plan does not go deep enough into the every department or agency’s affairs (with the exception of the EPA where the cuts go deep, very deep…)

The Government Accountability Office also came up with 100 billion in cutting redundancies and gets a ‘You did it’ sticker reward.

YouCut and the earmark ban make easy talking points and identify weird programs and policies that are ready go out the door.

The rest of the federal government consists of creatures that view themselves as Untouchables and if they remain such the US dollar will be over, so the Paul Ryan’s proposal has some plans to shake them up a bit.

The Path leads to reducing the number of the federal workforce by 10% by 2014. It is done in a humane way – on every three retired the government will hire one. The rate of downsizing of the federal workforce is higher than the one proposed by the Obama Debt and Deficit commission (two hired for every three retirees).

Deeply disappointing is the way Ryan’s proposal deals with the fraud and abuse across the federal government. The plan borrows the idea from the Debt Commission about creating a new bureaucracy and hiring more federal agents to look for government waste. This makes as much sense as policing Afghanistan for drugs while letting Charley Sheen to roam around Hollywood with a suitcase full of cocaine. More policing is not going to help until the real cause is addressed. In the case of the government waste the cause for the wide spread fraud and abuse is the insane size of the federal bureaucracy and the purposefully complicated way the business is conducted. The leaner the federal government the easier the waste will be identified. Making up a new committee is adding to the problem, not solving it.

Ryan’s plan is getting rid of many federal subsides including those for energy and agriculture. Those come in the category: too good to become true. The stars in that category are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which will be privatized. The proposal is winding down federal insurance guarantees for the GSE monsters and FDIC. Will the banks fly on their own soon? Right there with the pigs.

These are the itsy-bitsy cuts in Ryan’s Path to Prosperity and they seem achievable if good will meets the Republicans in the Senate. The trillions in cuts however come from a tax and entitlement reform that is a bit murky in details, so I will leave them for the next post waiting for a few questions to be asked and answered.

To be continued…

_______________________

The Moral Liberal Contributing Editor, Ellie Velinska, is the editor of the excellent blog: Big Bureacracy.com. A naturalized American citizen, she lives in North Carolina and is registered as a non-affiliated voter. Ellie attended and completed high school in the USSR and has Masters Degree in Psychology from Sofia University, Bulgaria. In 2000 Ellie and her husband moved to America after winning the Green Card Lottery. She says, the ‘New Media’ is a perfect challenge and quite convenient for her now that she is a mother of two boys.

( Original Article )

www.themoralliberal.com

Obama’s Libya War Czar Defends Muslim Brotherhood

 

by Tom McGregor
Tue, Apr 5, 2011, 08:15 PM

The Muslim Brotherhood is a radical militant-extremist Islamic political organization that seeks to overthrow Middle East governments that take a dim view of jihad. They claim they’re fighting for human rights, but actually hold this philosophy: “we demand the world tolerate or intolerance.”

In other words, they seek to impose Sharia Law all over the Middle East and if any Arab government stops them, they’ll just launch violent co-called democracy demonstrations, get the backing of President Barack Obama, CNN and the United Nations and continue to fight until the next regime topples. Libya seems to be the target right now.

Apparently, Obama’s National Security Adviser, Samantha Powers, isn’t making it a secret that she favors the covert philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood. She inspired billionaire George Soros, an oil speculator, to finance a think tank that advocates normalizing US government ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. The foundation is called the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect.”

According to New American magazine, “the Global Ceneter was created in February 2008, according to its website, ‘to catalyze action to move the 2005 World Summit agreement on the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity from principle into practice.’”

The doctrine of the organization is frequently drawn up by the International Crisis Group (ICG), which is largely financed by Mr. Soros, who serves on the board of the executive committee.

As reported by New American, “WND reports that the ICG has ‘been petitioning for the U.S. to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood,’ and includes on its board Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as others who ‘champion dialogue with Hamas.’ The group has also petitioned for the Algerian government to cease ‘excessive military activities against al-Qaeda-linked groups.’”

Soros’s Open Society Institute is funding numerous opposition groups across the Middle East that include those involved in the current Libyan War.

To read the entire article from New American, link here:

Tommcgregor@cri.com.cn

( Original Article )

http://www.dallasblog.com/201104051007938/dallas-blog/obama-s-libya-war-czar-defends-muslim-brotherhood.html

SOROS CONVENES ‘BRETTON WOODS II’

By Pete Papaherakles

Internationalist billionaire George Soros is holding his international conference April 8 to April 11 at Bretton Woods, N.H., the noted birthplace of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, where he plans to “rearrange the entire financial order,” as he noted in a November 2009 article in The Japan Times Online.

This “Bretton Woods II” comes along just as the Trilateral Commission will be meeting at the same time in Washington, D.C. With an apparent goal of creating nothing less than a new global economy, Soros is spending $50 million in New Hampshire to bring together up to 200 academic, business and government policy leaders under his Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
As AFP goes to press, the attendees are to include ex-Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and World Bank executive and Nobel Prize winner in economics Joseph Stiglitz.

The conference is slated for the Mount Washington Hotel, site of the historic 1944 Bretton Woods conference, which established the post-World War II international financial architecture.

Soros chose this site because he expects his proposed reforms to be as radical as those promoted by British economist John Maynard Keynes, the much-praised “genius” of the original Bretton Woods project.

Keynesian economics have been portrayed as a cure to the Western world’s postwar devastation, in that governments were liberated of money creation restrictions imposed by the gold standard, even while global financiers controlled much of the world’s gold like they do now. Governments, under the new paradigm after the war, were encouraged to promote economic growth and macroeconomic stability by creating more debt-based money for everything that ailed the economy—debt that has brought most of the world’s economies to the brink of bankruptcy.

Now Soros comes along as the new Keynes to save the day by proposing another miracle solution to our problems, couched in lofty doublespeak such as “reform,” “cooperation” and “equal participation.” Soros is proposing the end of sovereignty as we know it.
“Reorganizing the world order will need to extend beyond the financial system,” Soros wrote in his opinion piece.

Soros is saying that a washed-up America should be replaced by a world government with a global currency under UN rule. He also advocates that China should be top dog while we play second fiddle. What Soros doesn’t say is that two decades of outsourcing U.S. industry, opening the borders and bankrupting the economy with pointless wars and other debacles have been intentionally orchestrated so that now international bankers can tell the world the system is broken and that the individuals who broke it need to show us how to fix it.
Georgy Schwartz, aka George Soros, is a Hungarian Jew who has been described as anti-God, anti-family and anti-American. By his own admission he even helped confiscate the homes of fellow Jews in Hungary in 1944.
In an interview with Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes he said 1944 was the best year of his life. Asked by Kroft if he felt any remorse, he answered, “No, not at all; I rather enjoyed it.”
“No feelings of guilt?” asked Kroft. “No,” answered Soros, “only feelings of power.”

Soros made his first billion as a currency speculator in 1992 by shorting the British pound and causing misery to millions of hardworking British citizens. He went on to cause the 1999 Russiagate scandal, almost collapsing the Russian economy. It was described as “one of the greatest social robberies in human history.”
He did the same to Thailand and Malaysia in 1997, causing the Asian financial crisis of that time. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad called him “a villain and a moron,” while Thailand’s PM referred to him as “Dracula.” He also helped dismantle Yugoslavia and caused major trouble in Japan, Indonesia, Georgia, Ukraine and Burma by raiding their economies.
Soros also fosters cultural degeneracy by supporting abortion rights, atheism, drug legalization, sex education, euthanasia, feminism, gun control, globalization, mass immigration, gay marriage etc. Soros funded Barack Obama’s campaign and often visits the White House.
At 81, taking down America appears to be his final challenge. “The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States. The time has come for a very serious adjustment,” he said.

( Original Article )

http://www.americanfreepress.net/html/bretton_woods_ii_265.html

George Soros making a move to control food and grain production

  • March 30th, 2011 1:37 pm ET

Kenneth Schortgen Jr

Financier and progressive activist George Soros is formulating a move to control food and grain production by purchasing grain elevators in late March in several parts of the United States through his Soros Managment Fund’s backed Gavilon Grain.  With purchases made in March, Gavilon Grain will become the third largest grain company behind Cargill, and Archer-Daniels Midland.

With strong ties to the Obama administration, Soros now has both the economic, and political clout to begin consolidation of purchasing and shipping domestic agriculture around the world.

U.S. grain firm Gavilon Grain said on Thursday it will buy Union Elevator and Warehouse’s 16 grain elevators in the Pacific Northwest , the company’s second big purchase of U.S. grain facilities in the last six months.

The purchase of 16 elevators at 12 locations in eastern Washington will expand Gavilon’s grain capacity by 8.4 mbu.

“The addition of Union Elevator’s grain facilities and origination capabilities position us well to support the growing Pacific Northwest export wheat market and serve the Columbian Basin feed grain market,” Greg Konsor, VP and GM of Gavilon Grain, said in a statement. The PNW is the No. 1 wheat export terminal in the United States.  – Reuters

When food brokers consolidate into just a few large companies controlling the majority of a market, then prices can be set not by supply and demand, but by corporate decisions and manipulation of supply.  If the price for food is too low in the United States, then grain can be shipped to other markets for sale, causing then an artifical supply problem in the country that produced the grain itself.

With George Soros’s making this move in backing Gavilon Grain’s purchases to control food and grain distribution in the United States, and becoming the third largest grain company in the country, it will lead to the same results that we see in the energy markets as oil is controlled by a small group of corporations, and the price can be dictated by an artificial control over its supply

( Original Article )

http://www.examiner.com/finance-examiner-in-national/george-soros-making-a-move-to-control-food-and-grain-production

Obama’s energy plan: less supply, more regulations, higher prices

By Joseph Moser

Energy is inextricably linked to economic growth.

The effect of ever-creeping gas prices trickle down along the supply chain, from the suppliers to the manufacturers to the retailers — and ultimately — to the customer, who pays more for the final product. Nevertheless, President Obama has pushed forward with an anti-energy, anti-growth policy: no further oil exploration and drilling, a plethora of higher energy taxes, and new onerous carbon emission regulations.

It’s clear the president is attempting to artificially inflate the price of fossil fuels to force America to adopt his vision of a “green” economy. And if he gets his way, our sputtering economy will continue to shed jobs and face a prolonged downturn.

For the first time in two years, oil costs more than $100 a barrel. In the last month alone, gasoline prices have risen nearly 40 cents per gallon, bringing the national average for a gallon of self-serve, regular gasoline to $3.55, according to AAA. Prices are already topping $4.00 in some areas. And with the summer driving season fast approaching, prices at the pump are only going to climb higher.

While some of the blame can be placed on worldwide occurrences outside of Obama’s hands — oil supply disruptions in the Middle East and increased demand from an improving global economy — the president’s current de facto moratorium on drilling is merely making matters worse, further decreasing the energy supply.

Since the official moratorium was lifted in October, Obama’s Interior Department has slowly approved permits to allow drilling for only four rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Only one is a new permit — the other three are renewal permits for rigs that were already conducting activities before the Deepwater Horizon accident last April. Over twenty deepwater drilling permits are still pending.

This de facto oil production shutdown has done nothing to address the root causes of last year’s accident, nor to aid in the economic rehabilitation of the Gulf region. Rather, it has resulted in billions of lost economic activity and job opportunities in the Gulf, according to the Institute of Energy Research.

Even greater opportunities exist in other areas of the country. The Congressional Research Service has shown that there is likely 164.1 billion barrels of untapped oil in the U.S., and that doesn’t include oil shale, which has recoverable reserves of 1 trillion barrels, according to DOE.

Obama’s response: hands off.

Meanwhile, he is traveling south of the border to tell Brazil that the U.S. will help develop its offshore resources so we can one day import its oil. “We want to help you with the technology and support to develop these oil reserves safely,” he told Brazilians. “And when you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers.” Instead of encouraging domestic production and job creation at home, the president would rather create jobs for Brazilian workers, leaving Americans unemployed in the face of skyrocketing energy prices.

Tack on hundreds of billions of dollars in proposed energy taxes and new carbon regulations, and economic conditions will only worsen.

In a study conducted for the Institute for Energy Research, economist Dr. Joseph R. Mason found that Obama’s plan to repeal the Section 199 tax deduction would result in initial losses of “over 154,000 jobs by the end of 2011, not only in the energy sector but across the whole economy; more than $341 billion in lost U.S. economic output; and in excess of $68 billion in lost wages nationwide” over the next ten years. The study only analyzes the effects of one component of Obama’s energy tax plan. Imagine the economic impact of implementing all of the proposed taxes.

President Obama’s regulatory push is especially egregious considering that he is moving to bypass Congress and implement his failed attempt at cap and trade. By manipulating the 1970 Clean Air Act, Obama is effectively imposing new laws without congressional approval.

Once phased in, the EPA rules would regulate almost every aspect of American life: schools, hospitals, churches, and even large single-family homes. All would be subject to federal permitting requirements and regulations. The agency would also mandate complete redesigns and operational changes to everything from cars, trucks and tractors to airplanes, trains and even lawn mowers.

President Obama’s anti-energy proposals are preventing the market from working its magic to bring more affordable, efficient energy to Americans. The high price of oil is signaling energy producers to find and harness reserves. Obama’s plan to force the U.S. into the “green” economy is thwarting this process — all at the expense of American jobs and wallets.

Joseph E. Moser is a development associate at Americans for Prosperity Foundation in Arlington, VA.

( Original Aritcle )

Obama’s energy plan | Obama’s energy plan: less supply, more regulations, higher prices | The Daily Caller – Breaking News, Opinion, Research, and Entertainment.

US, Colombia Reach Deal on Key Free Trade Pact

image

President of the Republic of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos addresses an audience on the campus of Brown University, in Providence, R.I., Tuesday, April 5, 2011. Santos is delivering the Ogden Lecture, which is given on international affairs. His speech is titled, “Why People Should Give More than a Damn About Latin America.” (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

By JULIE PACE Associated Press

WASHINGTON April 6, 2011 (AP)

After weeks of intense negotiations, the United States and Colombia have reached a deal on a free trade pact that the White House says is a vital part of President Barack Obama’s economic agenda.

The administration said the agreement came together after the Colombians agreed to offer greater protections for workers and union leaders, an area of key concern for the U.S. It estimates final pact will boost U.S. exports to Colombia by more than $1 billion per year and could support thousands of American jobs.

The deal has bipartisan support in Congress, which must approve the agreement before it can be implemented. Republican lawmakers have used the pact as a political bargaining chip, threatening to block the confirmation of a new commerce secretary and hold up final passage of another trade deal with South Korea if the administration did not finalize a pact with Colombia, as well as another pending agreement with Panama.

Completing the Colombia deal could increase pressure on the Panamanian government to address outstanding issues that remain in those negotiations, administration officials said. U.S. concerns with Panama are focused on the transparency of tax laws there, though officials say Panama will likely pass a tax-information exchange agreement that could end the stalemate by the end of this month.

Under the agreement with Colombia, 80 percent of consumer and industrial products the U.S. exports to Colombia will become duty-free, with the remaining tariffs phased out over the next 10 years. More than half of U.S. agriculture exports to Colombia would also become duty-free, with almost all tariffs eliminated within 15 years.

Colombia is the third largest economy in Central and South America and was set to implement trade pacts with Canada and the European Union. The administration said finalizing the deal now was crucial to the U.S. keeping an economic foothold in the country.

The White House said Obama would meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday in Washington to formally approve the agreement.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, welcomed the breakthrough with the Colombians, but said the deal did nothing to change his party’s insistence that the administration finalize all three outstanding trade agreements before Congress approves any of the pacts.

“All three agreements need to be sent up together,” Hatch said. “We need to begin implementing work on all three agreements immediately.”

Republicans have said they want to begin reviewing the three trade pacts by July 1. The administration has yet to send the South Korea deal to Congress, and administration officials offered no timeline Wednesday for sending the Colombia agreement.

The U.S. signed the three pacts in 2007 under President George W. Bush. But the then-Democratic-led Congress never brought the agreements up for vote, giving the Obama administration time to renegotiate areas it found objectionable.

The key U.S. concerns in negotiating the Colombia pact focused on high rates of violence against Colombian labor union leaders and insufficient protections for workers’ rights. Under the new agreement, the Colombian government will phase in an action plan throughout the year aimed at increasing protections for labor, including expanding the scope of existing protections to help union leaders protect labor activists and enacting tougher measures that criminalize actions limiting workers’ rights, including the right to organize.

Many U.S. labor organizations have opposed the deal on the basis of Colombia’s treatment of unions. Daniel Kovalik, a senior lawyer for the United Steelworkers, called news of the amended Colombia pact “devastating” and said his union, as well as the AFL-CIO, would continue to oppose the deal.

“This shows a total disregard for the views of labor on this,” Kovalik said Wednesday.

Colombia continues to be an extremely dangerous country for union organizers. According to the National Labor School, 52 union activists were murdered last year, and five have been killed so far this year.

News of the deal with Colombia won praise from the business community.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, applauded Obama and Santos for their “courage and pragmatism” in striking the accord.

“This proves the United States can still lead on trade,” Donohue said. “The chamber will work closely with the White House and Congress to secure approval of the three pending free trade agreements in the weeks ahead.”

Obama has made trade a central part of his economic agenda, in part because he sees it as a way to boost jobs and U.S., and because it’s an area where the administration believes it can get Republican support. Republicans have generally supported trade agreements.

The president has set a goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015, in part by entering into new trade agreements.

Original Article

%d bloggers like this: