All three agreements enacted
It took more than a year after Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made this pledge, but in October 2011, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
Their passage was somewhat remarkable for 2011, not exactly a year marked by bi-partisan cooperation.
All three agreements were initiated under President George W. Bush. But they never won approval from Congress, which at the time was controlled by Democrats who objected over labor and environmental issues.
When Republicans took control in 2010, they made passage a priority, and the White House wanted to get it done too.
"The result was an unusual political victory shared by President Obama and congressional Republicans amid a year of partisan warfare,” the Los Angeles Times wrote.
The Korea agreement was an especially difficult accomplishment for Obama, politically speaking, because he risked alienating his own base -- liberals are typically skeptical of free trade. So the GOP could not have fulfilled this promise without the president"s cooperation and maneuvering. But in the name of bi-partisanship, we rate this a Promise Kept.
PolitiFact, "Mitt Romney says Barack Obama didn't expand U.S. trade deals,” Jan. 8, 2012
White House, "President Obama Signs Historic Legislation Signaling Progress on Trade and Jobs," Oct. 21, 2011
Los Angeles Times, "Despite divisiveness, Congress passes 3 trade pacts,” Oct. 13, 2011
Los Angeles Times, "Trade deals a rare sign of progress, or not,” Oct. 17, 2011, accessed via Nexis
U.S. House of Representatives, vote on Korea trade agreement, Oct. 12, 2011
U.S. House of Representatives, vote on Colombia trade agreement, Oct. 12, 2011
U.S. House of Representatives, vote on Panama trade agreement, Oct. 12, 2011
U.S. Senate, vote on Korea trade agreement, Oct. 12, 2011
U.S. Senate, vote on Colombia trade agreement, Oct. 12, 2011
U.S. Senate, vote on Panama trade agreement, Oct. 12, 2011
New York Times, "Democrats Consider Deal For Passage Of Trade Pacts,” March 24, 2007, accessed via Nexis
White House tees up trade deal for GOP action
During the 2010 campaign, Rep. John Boehner, the House Republican leader, said that if his party won a majority on Election Day, the GOP House would immediately approve pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
We've seen no recent progress on the pending trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, but with a big assist from President Barack Obama, the House GOP took a step toward approving the South Korean trade deal even before Republicans took the gavel in the House.
On Dec. 3, 2010, the White House announced that the U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement on "a landmark trade deal that is expected to increase annual exports of American goods by up to $11 billion and support at least 70,000 American jobs." The agreement "(sets) the stage for consideration of the agreement by Congress in the coming months." A White House fact sheet on the deal can be found here.
The administration's agreement with South Korea -- after a long standoff over tricky items such as automobiles and beef -- was a necessary prerequisite for fulfilling the Republican promise to approve the trade deal in Congress. So while the Colombia and Panama deals remain in limbo, the White House's post-election agreement with South Korea is enough to move this promise to In the Works.
White House, "Statement by the President Announcing the US-Korea Trade Agreement," Dec. 3, 2010
White House, "Remarks by the President at the Announcement of a U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement," Dec. 4, 2010
White House, fact sheet on the South Korea trade agreement, Dec. 3, 2010
Christian Science Monitor, "Can Obama, Lee sell lawmakers on US-South Korea free trade deal?" Dec. 5, 2010