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Obama gets an "F" on trade from Republican
"If you go to class, college, and you don't do anything, you get an F," Senator Charles Grassley said at the Reuters Washington Summit.
Grassley's tough language reflects Republican frustration with White House inaction on free trade pacts with Panama, Colombia and South Korea, which were negotiated by the administration of former President George W. Bush.
"If there's anything that would help us with this economic downturn, it would be to promote trade ... If you're in a recession and trade would help you get out of it, you shouldn't be doing nothing," Grassley said at the summit, held at the Reuters office in Washington.
The Iowa Republican also expressed concern about the recent drop in the value of the U.S. dollar, saying it sent a bad signal "to the rest of the world that the United States doesn't have its economy under control."
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, gave Obama an A for his efforts to rescue the U.S. economy, in a separate interview. But like all presidents, his record on trade is "a mixed picture," Levin said, adding that Democrats have concerns about all three free trade pacts that must be addressed.
Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office, defended the administration's record, saying "USTR has racked up a significant list of trade-promoting accomplishments" since Obama took office.
They include negotiating a market-opening agreement for U.S. beef in Europe, taking China to the World Trade Organization for restrictions on raw material exports that push up costs for steel producers and working to keep markets open to U.S. farm products during the swine flu crisis, she said.
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