Congress Will Be Focusing on FTAs This Week

Senate is following House lead and acting swiftly on pending trade deals.

Published on: Oct 10, 2011

Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the Free Trade Agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. Last week the House Ways and Means Committee passed the enabling legislation. The Senate could vote on the pending free-trade agreements as soon as this Wednesday according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. Having passed the agreements out of committee last Thursday, and the Rules Committee on Friday announcing they back limiting debate to 90 minutes each agreement and not allowing any amendments to the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill, the House is also expected to vote this week.

White House Chief of Staff William Daley says passing the accords as well as Trade Adjustment Assistance for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition is an essential piece of the President's jobs agenda.

"We need to get all four elements of this package, the three trade deals and TAA, across the finish line next week," Daley said Friday during a speech at a fund-raising dinner for the National Foreign Trade Council’s educational foundation

Last Monday, President Barack Obama sent Congress legislation for the trade accords reached four years ago after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he would consider the worker assistance in tandem with the trade deals. Action by both chambers would send the accords to Obama on the eve of a state visit by South Korea's President Lee Myung Bak this Thursday.

It is estimated by the International Trade Commission that the trade agreement with South Korea could generate as many as 280,000 new U.S. jobs, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the trade agreements could prevent the loss of 380,000 jobs. On the flip side the AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor organization, claims that the free trade agreements will encourage companies to send work overseas and destroy 159,000 jobs.