- Pending Free Trade Agreements to be taken up by the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.
- Tentative deal struck on labor program issues.
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama and Colombia moved forward on Tuesday with the announcement that a deal had been struck between Democrats and Republicans. Later in the day, doubts – centered on an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program -- emerged about the solidity of the announced compromise but it is expected the Senate Finance Committee will take up the FTAs on Thursday.
The Obama administration, eager to boost trade in a slow-moving economy, has long seen the proposed FTAs as a quick shot in the arm. At the same time, to the irritation of Republicans, Democrats have insisted on an extension of the TAA program, which would assist U.S. workers who lose their jobs in the wake of the trade deals.
Commodity groups were largely positive with Tuesday’s news. In the Mid-South, the lack of U.S. access to Korea’s rice market has tamped down some enthusiasm for the FTA. On the flipside, the American Soybean Association (ASA) said the three trade pacts represent the potential of some $3 billion of additional agriculture exports.
"This is a critical step in the right direction," said ASA President Alan Kemper, a soybean farmer from Lafayette, Ind., in a statement. "Now that an agreement on Trade Adjustment Assistance has been reached, we call on Congress and the (Obama) administration to quickly advance these trade agreements in order to boost our economy."
Bart Schott, farmer and National Corn Growers Association president, said the “NCGA is greatly encouraged by the movement on the pending FTAs. The United States is the largest corn producer and exporter in the world and developing new markets for our country’s agricultural products will help our sector lead the nation in economic growth and international competitiveness.”