Business groups rushed to praise new efforts to approve long-stalled free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and urged on Wednesday lawmakers to work to make passage a bipartisan effort.
“After years of waiting, it is more important than ever that the United States aggressively move forward with a proactive trade agenda,” said Sandy Kennedy, president of the Retail Industries Leaders Association. “Domestic economic growth and job creation here at home are dependent upon open access to new markets and new sources in the global economy. Tearing down trade barriers will create and sustain thousands of American jobs as businesses compete to buy and sell goods and services to customers around the world.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Donohue said Congress must act quickly to revive the country’s economic recovery.
“We simply cannot afford to put American jobs at risk any longer,” Donohue said. “American workers and farmers waited more than four years for the trade agreements. For members of Congress who care about American jobs, this is a moment of truth. I urge members of both parties to seize a reasonable compromise and move the trade agenda forward. The time to act is now.”
“We need the tools to compete and win in the world economy,” said Peter M. Robinson, chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of International Business. “Failure to move quickly on the three trade agreements will damage American leadership and credibility on the world stage. American business will do its utmost to ensure Congressional passage.”
“Moving the FTAs forward in an expedited fashion is critical to manufacturers who cede market share to their overseas competitors each day that these barriers exist,” said Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. “At a time when our economy is struggling to regain its footing, the agreements should be approved quickly so that we can see new markets opened and, most importantly, begin filling the 100,000 new jobs they will create.”
National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch remains skeptical. Congress and the administration have broken the FTA logjam. The implementation includes things both parties want; the FTAs for Republicans, and Trade Adjustment Assistance for the Democrats.
“The mysteries are what took them so long and whether they will actually be able to cross the finish line,” Reinsch said. “The impasse demonstrated the Republicans’ uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and it certainly showed the Administration’s odd inability to get ahead of this issue… This is not only a victory for them; it’s a victory for jobs and growth and for a sensible trade policy.”
The committee is scheduled to hold a “mock markup” for the implementing bills on Thursday. The committee vote is not binding, but it is a way for lawmakers to recommend changes to the administration’s bill. The Senate can only vote on the president’s bill as-is, with no amendments.
-- Contact R.G. Edmonson at firstname.lastname@example.org.