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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 13, 2011

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: U.S. Passes Stalled Free Trade Deals

The U.S. Congress approved free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama (NYT) that had been held up by Democrats for five years. The ratification of the treaties--largely negotiated by the Bush administration--was a victory for both President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans. Many congressional Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted against the measures.

Proponents of the deals have said they would stimulate the beleaguered U.S. economy and generate employment. The agreements are expected to produce $13 billion in new exports (WSJ), primarily to South Korea. Some opponents have said the pacts do not do enough to protect U.S. workers, while others have said they would inject unwanted competition into the U.S. textiles, electronics, and manufacturing industries.

The South Korea agreement is considered the most significant, called the "most consequential trade pact" (WashPost) since the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the South Korea deal could create close to three hundred thousand U.S. jobs.

The vote came as South Korean President Lee Myung-bak begins a state visit (CNN) at the White House today.


This recent CFR Independent Task Force report encourages the Obama administration andĀ Congress to adopt a "pro-America" trade policy that bringsĀ to more Americans the benefits of global engagement.

The U.S. needs to revitalize trade policy and spur foreign investment in this country--timely ingredients for a job-creating economic resurgence, says former senator Thomas Daschle in this CFR Interview.

President Lee's visit to Washington comes amid a high-point for U.S.-South Korean relations, says CFR's Scott Snyder in a CFR Interview.



U.S. Moves to Sanction Iran

A day after the United States accused Iran of being behind a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador (al-Jazeera) to the United States, U.S. officials moved to enact new sanctions against the Iranian government and said they would take the case to the UN Security Council.

Iran's ambitions as a regional power and its links to suspected terrorist groups pose stiff challenges to its neighbors and the world, explain this CFR Crisis Guide.

LIBYA: The governing National Transitional Council denied reports (Bloomberg) that ousted leader Muammar al-Qaddafi's son, Mutassim, was captured in Sirte, even as officials said they were closer to taking the Qaddafi loyalist stronghold.



Australia Drops Asylum Swap Plan

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard put aside a controversial plan to swap refugees with Malaysia, allowing asylum seekers to be processed onshore (Australian).

SOUTH KOREA: The South Korean government will create a task force to better address crimes by U.S. soldiers (Yonhap) stationed in South Korea. This month two soldiers have been accused of raping teenage girls.



U.S. Envoy Meets with Pakistani Army Chief

U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman met with Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani amid high tensions (Dawn) between the United States and Pakistan over the latter's alleged support of militants in Afghanistan. Kayani said the army was taking steps to defeat militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.

PAKISTAN: Two U.S. drone strikes (AFP) killed at least four militants--including a logistics commander in the Taliban- and al-Qaeda-allied Haqqani network--in the Waziristan region of Pakistan near the Afghan border.

Pakistan's stability is of great consequence to regional and international security. Examine the roots of its challenges, what it means for the region and the world, and explore some plausible futures for the country in this CFR Crisis Guide.



Nigerian Pleads Guilty in U.S. Terror Case

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian man accused of attempting to hijack and blow up a U.S. commercial airline (NYT) on Christmas Day in 2009, pleaded guilty to all charges. Abdulmutallab described himself as a member of al-Qaeda.

SUDAN: President Omar al-Bashir announced that Sudan will move forward with plans to adopt a completely Islamic constitution (Reuters), complicating life for many non-Muslim southern Sudanese still living in the north.



Thousands of Students Protest in Bogota

At least twenty thousand students demonstrated in the Colombian capital of Bogota against government plans to reform public universities (BBC) in what student say amounts partial privatization. The protests come on the heels of months of similar demonstrations in Chile.



EU Commission Chief Calls for Stronger Crisis Measures

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso called for a stronger response to the widening eurozone sovereign debt crisis (DeutscheWelle), acknowledging that measures agreed upon in July to expand the eurozone bailout mechanism and provide Greece with a second bailout would not be sufficient.

The eurozone, once seen as a crowning achievement in the decades-long path of European integration, is buffeted by a sovereign debt crisis of nations whose membership in the currency union has been poorly policed, explains this CFR Backgrounder.

ITALY: After losing a parliamentary vote over new budgetary measures, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called for a confidence vote (EuroNews) on his government, expected on Friday.



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