President Barack Obama may send free- trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for consideration as soon as today, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plans.
The trade pacts reached under President George W. Bush and revised by President Barack Obama have been stymied in a stalemate with House Republicans over benefits for workers hurt by import competition. The Senate voted to extend the aid on Sept. 22, and House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he would consider the program, called Trade Adjustment Assistance, in tandem with the trade deals once the Obama administration submits legislation to enact the agreements.
A second person, a Colombian government official who said he has been briefed on the plans, said he expected Obama to act on the accords today or tomorrow. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.
“I would fully expect them to move these as quickly as possible, and I would hope they would move them” today, Doug Goudie, director of international trade policy for the National Association of Manufacturers in Washington, said yesterday in an interview. “Everything is ready for them to go.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney declined to comment on the timing. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office didn’t confirm the Obama administration’s submission plans.
The administration may seek to advance the free-trade agreements before South Korean President Lee Myung Bak visits Washington Oct. 13, John Murphy, vice president of international affairs at the Washington-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s biggest business group, said in a Sept. 30 interview.
President Lee’s Visit
“The White House is clearly motivated to get a move on if at all possible because of President Lee’s state visit,” Murphy said. “There’s a belief in some quarters that if they could send up the FTAs as early as Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, that might allow them to get the FTAs and TAA out of the House maybe by the end of the week.”
The South Korea deal, the biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement, would boost U.S. exports by as much as $10.9 billion in the first year in which it’s in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The accord with Colombia would increase exports by as much as $1.1 billion a year.
Obama, in a Sept. 8 speech to Congress introducing his $447 billion job-creation plan, called on lawmakers to pass the trade accords and renew the worker aid.
“The president should send in the agreements,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said yesterday in an e-mail. The speaker is “confident we can get them done by mid-October,” Steel said.
--With assistance from Margaret Talev and Hans Nichols in Washington, Joshua Goodman in Rio de Janeiro and Bill Faries in Buenos Aires. Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert
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