Image: President Bush
Duane A. Laverty  /  AP
President Bush waves as he departs Air Force One on Friday in Waco, Texas. Bush has been ramping up pressure on Congress to approve new trade pacts with Peru, Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
updated 10/13/2007 6:59:42 PM ET 2007-10-13T22:59:42

Alarmed by slipping support for free trade even among Republicans, President Bush is arguing that protectionism will cut Americans out of chances for more — and better — jobs.

Bush has launched a blitz on behalf of pending free trade pacts with four nations. He continued the push Saturday in his weekly radio address.

"More exports support better and higher-paying jobs," the president said. "And to keep our economy expanding, we need to keep expanding trade."

His radio address followed a speech on trade he delivered Friday in Miami. Bush also granted interviews this week to business-oriented news organizations.

Since Democrats took control of Congress in January, it has not approved any free trade agreements that the administration has negotiated, and it has allowed Bush's authority to negotiate future deals under expedited procedures to expire.

Before lawmakers now are agreements with Peru and Panama, considered likely to pass, and with Colombia and South Korea, both seen as precarious. The deal with Colombia is in trouble over human rights issues and there is strong opposition to the South Korea agreement because of barriers erected by Seoul to keep out U.S. autos and beef.

Bush pledges funds to retrain workers
The administration already has reached agreement with Democrats to include tougher language on protecting worker rights and the environment. But critics say five consecutive years of record U.S. trade deficits have played a major role in the loss of more than 3 million manufacturing jobs since Bush took office in 2001.

"I know many Americans feel uneasy about new competition and worry that trade will cost jobs," Bush said. "So the federal government is providing substantial funding for trade adjustment assistance that helps Americans make the transition from one job to the next. We are working to improve federal job-training programs. And we are providing strong support for America's community colleges, where people of any age can go to learn new skills for a better, high-paying career."

‘Get these agreements to my desk’
He said the deals would level the playing field for American businesses and farmers, many of which now face high tariffs on exported products while other countries enjoy relatively open access to U.S. markets. And he argued that freer trade with allies serves "America's security and moral interests" around the globe.

"Expanding trade will help our economy grow," Bush said. "So I call on Congress to act quickly and get these agreements to my desk."

After spending Friday in Florida talking trade and raising money for the Republican Party, Bush flew to Texas for a weekend stay at his ranch. He travels Monday to Rogers, Ark., for a speech on the budget and to Memphis to raise money to help Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in his re-election bid. The president returns to Washington Monday evening.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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