In a key foreign policy speech Monday morning, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney claimed President Barack Obama "has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years," and promised to "reverse that failure."
However, Congress passed and Obama signed three major trade deals in 2011, giving American companies access to new markets in South Korea, Panama and Colombia. The Associated Press said the arrangements "could be worth billions to American exporters and create tens of thousands of jobs." Even Fox News reported on it.
The treaties passed with Republican support, but two-thirds of House Democrats voted against them, saying they were deigned to favor corporations over workers and facilitate outsourcing.
In the wake of last Wednesday's first presidential debate, Romney was widely cited for giving the best performance, but also widely chided for repeatedly rejecting easily provable facts and appearing to espouse completely new political positions on everything from taxes to healthcare. Romney's campaign quickly retracted a number of his key feints toward centrist policies, too -- saying like Romney's claim that his health plan covers pre-existing conditions, or Romney falsely saying he doesn't support turning Medicare into a coupon program -- but supporters argued that some of the misstatements were simply off-the-cuff and not intentionally misleading.
The statement on Obama's trade deals, however, was decidedly not off-the-cuff: the candidate's own prepared remarks include that same line word for word.
Reacting to Romney's speech, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright said she felt Romney's understanding of foreign policy is "very shallow."
“[When] you get to the specifics, you don’t get the sense that he knows exactly what tools to use and how to operate within an international setting,” she said. “This is kind of typical of what the Romney campaign does, is kind of assert something that is simply not true."
In addition to the three trade deals signed last year, Obama also put his name on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and his administration is in the midst of negotiation the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which proponents say are key to protecting American businesses while extending their potential reach around the world.
ACTA in particular was not subjected to congressional approval because, the administration argued, it does not change U.S. law and instead exports standard American business practices overseas. Activists in Europe vehemently disagreed and spent months in the streets, ultimately convincing the European Union's parliament to reject the treaty.
Still, ACTA's remaining signatories include Austria, Mexico, France, South Korea, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Belgium, Spain, Poland, Sweden, the U.K., Canada, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Morocco, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Bulgaria, Slovenia and more. The TPP treaty will also include Chile, New Zealand, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Peru, Australia and Canada. The Obama administration also said it was in talks over a free trade agreement with the former Soviet republic of Georgia.
While the president has clearly been hawkish on expanding the reach of American business through trade deals, he's also taken a number of steps to protect American workers from the worst effects of globalism, filing suit against China over counterfeit goods and opposing undemocratic changes to the global structure of the Internet.
Though these treaties are controversial, it's hard to make the case that they don't exist at all. But as Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse said in August, the Republican's run for the White House will not be "dictated by fact checkers" -- a gaffe they seem determined to prove right.