Congress Advances on Free Trade Agreements while the President Stalls


Posted by J. Michael Wahlen on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011, 3:08 PM PERMALINK


Today, Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson announced that there are enough votes in the Senate as well as the House of Representatives to pass free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.  This announcement places even greater pressure on President Obama to finally submit the agreements for a congressional vote.

The President has touted the agreements as job-creating measures since early 2011 and recently stated that the reason the agreements have not been passed was “the refusal by some in Congress to put country ahead of party.”   However, this claim continues to ring hollow considering the main holdup has been the president himself, who has delayed submitting the legislation due to a debate on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA).

The Administration currently seeks to raise the TAA levels back to the 2008 levels increased under the stimulus plan but expired earlier this year. While the Senate has largely agreed to the TAA levels requested by the President, the House has planned to take two separate votes, one on the free trade agreements, and the other on the TAA. 

TAA debates are no reason to delay the job-creating benefits of the free trade agreements. The Administration currently estimates that over 70,000 jobs would be created annually by the South Korean agreement alone.  Additionally, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that the combined effect of all three agreements would be over $13 billion in increased exports annually. 

The delay in passing the agreements is costly to Americans. The lost savings due to the delay has reached over $46 million a month in lost wages and higher prices from trade barriers.  Meanwhile, while the U.S. hesitates, other countries such as Canada and the EU are moving forward with new free trade agreements and snapping up market share.

The U.S. cannot afford to delay any longer on these agreements. The Administration must submit all three agreements as soon as Congress returns from recess.

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