The U.S. House of Representatives could soon take up a bill key to freeing up the three stalled free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. Those deals are worth billions in new sales for U.S. agriculture.
American Farm Bureau trade adviser Chris Garza says the House GOP and White House are still trying to come to terms on a plan to move the trade deals and provide help for trade-displaced workers through Trade Adjustment Assistance.
"Next week would be the soonest that the House could take this up," Garza said. "I think it is still very unclear at this point as to when the vote will be on the TAA bill will happen. I still think there are negotiations that are going out between the House leadership and the White House about how this process will move forward and when the FTAs will be sent up."
If the President wins Trade Adjustment Assistance renewal that he and his union backers are demanding, then will the President finally send up the four and five-year old deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea?
"I think folks here in Washington, D.C. who have been working this issue for a long time are fairly optimistic, or I should say extremely optimistic that this is going to happen," Garza said. "Unfortunately the process is moving very slow. It is moving like molasses but at least it is moving, which is what we need to be focused on."
After rejecting GOP conditions, the Senate approved the renewal of a controversial retraining bill for trade-displaced workers. The GOP-run House has never approved Trade Adjustment Assistance.
But Garza says the deal is there and both sides are now expected to do what they have to…to get the FTA’s done. The next question is, once the trade deals become law, how quickly will they be implemented?
"It's going to take several months to implement these trade agreements and get them into full effect," Garza said. "In regards to how quickly that process can move forward all depends on what work USTR has already done with our FTA partners to make sure that implementation process is streamlined and can move as quickly as possible."
Over the summer the administration had targeted January to implement the free trade agreements. That may now be harder to achieve, surrendering even more market share to the European Union and Canada, who’ve already implemented their own deals with the same trading partners.