The Senate recently approved an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which trains American workers affected by global competition.
While the program’s renewal is notable, given that it also streamlines previous changes made to the TAA in 2009 and represents a rare instance of compromise in a sharply divided Congress, its passage is perhaps more important for exporters because it paves the way for action on the nation’s three pending free trade agreements (FTAs), with Panama, South Korea and Colombia. President Barack Obama had considered TAA renewal a condition that had to be met before those FTAs were sent to Congress for approval.
Now that an agreement has been reached, little stands between the agreements and their entrance into force.
“Today’s long-awaited Senate action should clear the path for consideration of our pending trade agreements,” said Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means. “The next step is for the president to promptly submit the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, which also enjoy bipartisan, bicameral support, to the House and bring us one step closer to passage.”
While President Obama set TAA passage as a precondition for the FTAs, Republican leaders demanded the opposite, that the FTAs be submitted prior to their approval of the TAA bill. Now that the Senate has approved the TAA extension, the GOP hopes that the President will relent, and submit the FTAs to the House, trusting that TAA approval would follow shortly after their arrival.
“The Senate today will have acted on trust in passing TAA even before we received the agreements,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) after the vote. “But the White House has refused to show the same trust in Congressional Republicans who’ve assured them that TAA will move along with the FTAs.”
“I kept my promise that I would allow TAA to move forward in the Senate as long as Republicans had a chance to amend it. It is time for the administration to deliver on theirs. It’s time for the President to send up these long-pending FTAs without delay,” he added.
Stay tuned to NACM’s blog and NACM’s eNews for any future updates on the pending FTAs.
Jacob Barron, CICP, NACM staff writer