The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Obama sends free trade agreements to Congress

President Barack Obama today submitted the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for approval. The president’s submission of the agreements is a signal that the administration has confidence that the House will approve trade adjustment assistance (TAA) for workers and farmers hurt by free trade. The Senate has already passed TAA.

Farm groups have been pushing for approval of the agreements for several years because they would reduce or eliminate tariffs on U.S. farm products and make them competitive with products from countries that already have free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

“The series of trade agreements I am submitting to Congress today will make it easier for American companies to sell their products in South Korea, Colombia, and Panama and provide a major boost to our exports,” Obama said in a news release.

“These agreements will support tens of thousands of jobs across the country for workers making products stamped with three proud words: Made in America. We've worked hard to strengthen these agreements to get the best possible deal for American workers and businesses, and I call on Congress to pass them without delay, along with the bipartisan agreement on trade adjustment assistance that will help workers whose jobs have been affected by global competition.”

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk today called for swift congressional action on the agreements, along with renewal of trade adjustment assistance reforms and expired trade preference programs.

Kirk also noted that under trade promotion authority, which Congress granted to the Bush administration to negotiate the agreements, the legislation for the trade agreements may not be amended, and Congress has 90 days to hold up-or-down votes on each. Changes to the legislation would make it subject to normal rules and procedures, including amendment and filibuster.

Representatives of U.S. Wheat Associates and the U.S. Grains Council said today at a news conference that U.S. agriculture has been losing market share in Colombia because Argentina and Canada already have free trade agreements with the South American country while U.S. products are subject to tariffs.