The Hagstrom Report

Agriculture News As It Happens

Free trade agreements easily pass Senate, House

The three trade agreements passed the Senate with solid majorities Wednesday evening, following House passage.

The South Korea deal passed the Senate by a vote of 83 to 15, the Panama deal passed 77 to 22, and the Colombia agreement, often considered the most controversial of the three, also passed with a solid majority with a vote of 66 to 33, National Journal Daily reported.

Earlier, the House had approved the bills, with Korea receiving a vote of 278-151, Panama 300-129; and Colombia 262-167.

“The landmark trade agreements and assistance for American workers that passed tonight are a major win for American workers and businesses,” said President Barack Obama, who had insisted on changes to the agreements negotiated by the Bush administration and the reauthorization of trade adjustment assistance for American workers and farmers hurt by trade.

“I’ve fought to make sure that these trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama deliver the best possible deal for our country, and I’ve insisted that we do more to help American workers who have been affected by global competition,” Obama said.

“Tonight’s vote, with bipartisan support, will significantly boost exports that bear the proud label ‘Made in America,’ support tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property. American automakers, farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, including many small businesses, will be able to compete and win in new markets. I look forward to signing these agreements, which will help achieve my goal of doubling American exports and keeping America competitive in the 21st century.”

After his meeting with President Lee Myung-bak today, Obama told reporters, “We agreed to move ahead quickly with the landmark trade agreement that Congress passed last night — and which I’ll sign in the coming days. It’s a win for both our countries. For our farmers and ranchers here in the United States, it will increase exports of agricultural products.”

Obama and Lee also noted that the agreement will strengthen the larger security relationship between the two countries.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said in an interview conducted with Fox Business in the White House press briefing room today that the road to approval had been long and difficult because “Americans had lost faith [in trade.] They didn’t understand it. They thought of us getting cheaper consumers goods [but with] jobs going elsewhere.”

With so much of the world’s population outside the United States, Kirk said, the Obama administration couldn’t disengage from trade negotiations, but needed to improve the deals.