U.S. is committed to completing free-trade agreements


By Bob Tita, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES

President Obama’s administration is committed to completing the free-trade agreements started by the Bush administration, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk says.

Agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea are progressing.

Caterpillar Inc. (CAT), the world’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, has lobbied aggressively in support of the trade deals, arguing the U.S. has a trade surplus with the 17 countries where free-trade agreements already exist. Caterpillar said the surplus totals $26 billion for manufactured goods alone.

Caterpillar is particularly interested in the free-trade agreement with Panama because it would allow the Illinois-based company to sell tariff-free equipment in that country for the upcoming widening of the Panama Canal. Panama’s tariffs on imported machinery range from 3% to 10%.

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