The Realist Prism: Obama Promises with One Hand, Delays with Other

In May, I raised concerns that the "first steps" taken by President Barack Obama had given the administration some "breathing room" in terms of deliverables. No one expected back then that Washington would be moving on key initiatives. It was understood that the new team needed to get settled: The first hundred days is not a good time for breakthroughs.

But six months later, it still doesn't seem like a good time for them. At the Guadalajara summit in August, any effort to move forward on a series of important issues dealing with North America -- trade, energy security, coping with the growing challenge of drug cartels -- was put off. As the president made clear to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, "I've got a lot on my plate."

A similar refrain was heard during the president's recent visit to Asia. When will the free trade agreement with South Korea -- the largest such deal since NAFTA in 1994 -- be submitted to Congress for ratification? No firm date has been set. Along with free trade pacts negotiated with Colombia and Panama, the U.S.-Korea FTA now rests in an uneasy limbo. A great deal of rhetoric was expended in praise of the trans-Pacific partnership between the United States and the nations of East Asia, but little detail was provided as to what concrete steps Washington is prepared to take.

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