Tell us if you’ve heard this one before: three long-delayed free trade agreements (FTAs) finally appear ready for Congressional votes this summer. Key Congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the Obama Administration reported Tuesday that they have forged a deal to put up the FTAs up for House and Senate floor votes. However, a late inclusion from President Barack Obama in the form of a renewed assistance program could threaten the deal’s safe passage.
A push by several Democrats to include an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, designed to provide aid and unemployment benefits for workers affected by increased foreign competition, apparently was a sticking point for some in getting the FTA’s to a vote. Though many hard-line Republicans are said to oppose this, key GOP figures compromised on the issue. Lawmakers including Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) warn that the decision to attach the assistance program onto the FTA vote could jeopardize GOP support despite its longtime interest in passing the trade pacts, especially one with fast-emerging South Korea.
The FTA's are key to Obama's stated goal to double U.S. exporting levels by 2015.
Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer