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Senate Clears Hurdle for Passage of Free Trade Agreements

Sep 28, 2011

The prospect of President Obama formally submitting three free trade agreements to Congress increased last week when the Senate passed a bill renewing an assistance program that provides financial aid and training to displaced American workers. The White House agreed to submit the agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress once lawmakers passed an expanded version of the lapsed Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program.

The Senate bill will now go to the House of Representatives where the onus will be on President Obama and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to strike a deal allowing both the assistance program and pending trade pacts to advance.

The path forward in the House is still unclear, however, because Boehner and many House Republicans are adamantly opposed to passing the TAA before the trade agreements are formally submitted. Senate Republicans said they passed TAA in good faith and expect the president to take the next step and submit the trade agreements.

Administration Continues Call for TAA First

The White House continues to insist that the House must pass the bill containing the TAA program before it will submit the trade agreements. One possible option for a compromise would be for Boehner to craft a rule stipulating that TAA would not go to the president’s desk for signature until the trade agreements are formally submitted. Another, more informal option would be for Boehner to demonstrate through a letter to the president that enough Republicans support and will pass TAA if the President submits the agreements.

“With the benefits of trade evident in the dairy industry’s record export volumes this year, we urge our leaders to pass these agreements so the industry may sustain this growth and help to create badly needed jobs for Americans,” said John Kelly, IDFA manager of international affairs. “While we struggle to pass free trade agreements that were negotiated years ago, other dairy-exporting countries are rapidly pursuing and passing their own free trade agreements across the globe, threatening to edge the United States out of significant dairy markets.”

Passage of the U.S.-Korea FTA could result in up to $336 million in increased dairy exports, according to estimates from the U.S. International Trade Commission. The agreements with Panama and Colombia are also strong for U.S. dairy; they are each expected to produce an additional $25 million in exports per year.

For more information on trade, contact Kelly at or (202) 220-3507.

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