The Senate voted late Monday 84-4 to proceed with debate on a bill that’s considered an essential first step toward approving three long-stalled free trade agreements.
The bill reauthorizes Trade Assistance Authority, which provides relief to workers who lose jobs to foreign competition, and the Generalized System of Preferences, that allows importers to enter goods duty free from selected developing countries.
Republicans oppose TAA, something Democrats and President Obama believe is an essential part of the trade agreements. Republicans strongly support the FTAs, but blocked passage last summer when Democrats bundled TAA with them.
Linking TAA to the non-controversial GSP is part of a bipartisan agreement to clear the way to approving the South Korea, Colombia and Panama FTAs.
“With this vote and subsequent votes in the Senate this week, we will be one step closer to passage of the long-stalled trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama,” the National Foreign Trade Council said. “While we expect that amendments will be offered on the GSP/TAA legislation, we call on the Senate to pass the bill as soon as possible without amendments to ensure that the FTAs, TAA and preference programs are approved or renewed without further delay.”
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