Trade deals

As the White House and Congress dither over the debt ceiling, there's a simple step the president could take to help the economy and even create jobs. And it could be done with bipartisan support and minimal controversy.

What might that step be? The administration should send to Congress final legislation on pending free trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

All three deals were originally signed by George W. Bush, but went nowhere in a Democrat-controlled Congress beholden to Big Labor.

With the economy continuing to struggle, however, even some Democrats now favor the pacts, understanding that opening more markets to U.S. goods and providing increased consumer access to products from overseas will bring long-term economic benefits.

The European Union has implemented a trade deal with South Korea and is reaping the benefits of gaining additional access to the booming Southeast Asian nation.

"While Washington debates and delays, the rest of the world is moving forward," John Murphy, vice president of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told The Associated Press. "It's becoming absolutely excruciating for the business community."

The Obama administration already has renegotiated a few elements of the agreements to gain the support of opponents. The deals already include a sop to organized labor via more spending on "job training" for workers who, according to unions, lose their positions because of trade policies.

So what's left to debate? The White House should make these deals a top priority and send them off to Congress for quick approval.