Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sharply criticized the President’s refusal to submit three pending trade agreements for ratification on Tuesday, reminding the Senate that the agreements would create jobs for American workers and opportunities for American businesses in emerging markets. This position was echoed by Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist in a letter sent to the White House today.

The President has been stalling on submitting the pending Free Trade Agreements for ratification despite strongly expressed bipartisan support, because the Congress has refused to agree to renew or expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The TAA program, costing $2.4 billion per year, is designed to assist workers who have lost jobs due to import competition. However, studies have shown that workers in such industries have no greater difficulty finding new jobs than other workers, making the TAA program both costly and redundant.

In his speech on the Senate floor, Hatch argued that: “Demanding an expanded TAA as another excuse to delay voting on these important agreements is irresponsible and self-defeating.  At the same time, by not submitting these agreements for approval by Congress, the Administration is doing a disservice to the American economy”

Norquist expressed a similar view in his letter to the President, stating that: “With
unemployment at record numbers and the economy still struggling to recover, enacting
policies that will boost trade will do much more in the immediate and long term to grow
the economy and create new jobs than any program that continues government

Both Norquist and Sen. Hatch cited figures from a non partisan report by the United States International Trade Commission (USTIC), which indicates that the trade agreements will increase US GDP by $14 Billion and create more than 100,000 new jobs, including 70,000 from the Korean trade agreement alone. Additionally, it is estimated that in the time elapsed since the US-Colombian Free Trade Agreement was signed, American exporters have lost some $3.5 Billion to Colombian tariffs, because of the failure to ratify the treaty. Colombia products are already duty-free in the United States.

Other developed countries are actively working on free-trade agreements to gain access to the same markets. The EU singed a Free Trade Agreement with South Korea last year, while a Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Colombia takes effect on July 1st. The United States, in need of new export markets, cannot afford to fall behind, particularly in light of recent numbers showing poor job growth.

That free trade increases overall GDP and creates jobs has been a known principle of economics for more than two centuries. While the TAA program is redundant and unnecessary, it is a small issue in comparison to the potential benefits of the pending free trade agreements. The time has come for both the President and those legislators who would stall the trade agreements because of the TAA to act in the national interest and submit and ratify the treaties.