Last Thursday the Senate Finance Committee attempted to hold a mock markup of the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea but was forced to cancel the meeting when all Republican members of the committee decided to boycott the meeting due to the inclusion of Trade Adjustment Assistance in the bill.
In a letter to the President, the Senators said that under Trade Promotion Authority procedures, legislation to implement trade agreements cannot be amended once it is submitted to Congress by the President. For this reason, it is imperative that Congress be closely consulted throughout the trade agreement negotiation process and during development of implementing legislation for each trade agreement. They went on to state that they were concerned about last minute attempts to include provisions expanding Trade Adjustment Assistance in the South Korea FTA implementing bill, believing such actions are beyond the scope of TPA authority and unduly infringe on the rights of Members of the Senate to carefully weigh and debate the merits of TAA.
The House Ways and Means Committee will try this Thursday to get a quorum together to hold a mock markup for the three pending U.S. trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The legislative language that renews Trade Adjustment Assistance will not be under consideration.
U. S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk welcomes the effort. Kirk says this is an important step forward in the process of approval of the agreements with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama. However, Kirk noted that without TAA, the effort is at odds with the Administration's stated intentions for advancing a package that includes both the free-trade agreements and assistance for workers adversely impacted by trade.
Kirk says the Administration remains committed to advancing the renewal of a robust Trade Adjustment Assistance program and is making available to the House Ways and Means Committee legislative language that renews Trade Adjustment Assistance, along with measures to implement the U.S.-South Korea trade agreement, as well as implementing legislation for trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.