Free Trade agreements advance, but disagreements linger over TAA

 By Sara Wyant
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WASHINGTON, July 7 - Both the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee held mock markups of the three long-pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea on Thursday, but Republicans and Democrats remain deeply divided on whether or not to include Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers displaced by trade.

Potentially, these committee actions set the stage for the Obama Administration to send final bills to Congress for straight up or down votes -perhaps as early as next week. But without a compromise on TAA, farm and business groups are concerned that passage will be stalled.

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Democrats serving on the Senate Finance Committee Democrats defeated a Republican attempt to strip TAA from the Senate version of the Korea bill, and then voted to approve the agreement with all Republicans voting no.

“Passage of these implementing bills is a major victory for American ranchers, farmers, workers and businesses who have waited far too long for action,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont. “Today's vote brings us one step closer to creating the hundreds of thousands of new U.S. jobs and the growth that our economy desperately needs.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the committee's ranking minority member, said he supports the South-Korea trade pact and wants it to pass, “but I am disappointed by the majority's blatant and partisan abuse of long-standing trade rules. Including a domestic spending program of dubious merit is bad policy which jeopardizes support for the South Korea agreement and puts its TPA protection at risk.”

In the House, Democrats offered an amendment to include TAA in the Korea bill, but the effort was defeated by Republicans. The panel then approved the pact with all Democrats voting no.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said he intended to move a TAA bill separately and Senate Finance Committee Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, suggested he was open to that option as long as it was certain both TAA and the trade deals would pass. Camp said he was working to ensure passage of all three agreements as soon as possible.”

“Today's successful non-markup sends an important signal to the Obama Administration that the House of Representatives is prepared to move forward with these job-creating trade agreements,” Camp explained. “These agreements will spur economic growth, create 250,000 U.S. jobs and increase exports by $13 billion.  The time to move forward is now.  American workers, farmers and businesses have been put at a competitive disadvantage for too long, and passing these agreements is critical to ensuring that America is on a level playing field with their global competitors.”

After the mock markups were completed, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said he was eager to advance a “balanced trade agenda that supports tens of thousands of well-paying jobs through increased exports to Korea, Colombia, and Panama, and that restores faith with those Americans who may be adversely affected by trade.”


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