Note: This article is one in a four-part series on low points of 2009. Overview  

There was little if any progress in 2009 on pending free trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

“I cannot tell you the timeline,” said U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in October to an audience of more than 100 businesspeople at the offices of Atlanta law firm King & Spalding LLP

All of the deals were drawn up and signed under President Bush, but they must be ratified in legislatures in the U.S. and each country before going into effect. The U.S. Congress has yet to vote on any of the agreements. The Panama FTA passed that country’s legislature by a 58-3 margin soon after its signing in 2007.

Mr. Kirk, former mayor of Dallas, Texas, stressed that President Obama strongly believes in the benefits of free trade but that the U.S. should require its partners to adhere to certain ideals on workers’ rights, fair market access and environmental stewardship.  

When each of the pacts goes up for a vote in the U.S. depends on how quickly such issues can be ironed out in ongoing negotiations with each country, he said, giving few hints as to when that might be.

This article is one in a four-part series on low points of 2009:

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