Wednesday, July 27, 2011

KorUS: The Path Ahead

The U.S.-Korea FTA Coalition reports that U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk publicly stated Tuesday that "we believe we have the framework for an agreement that will allow us very quickly, when Congress reconvenes in September, to approve and have a vote" on Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and on the pending FTAs.

"We're still working with the leadership to come up with the kind of specifics of how we'd sequence that," Kirk said, noting that the proposed framework "would allow us to get a vote on TAA," give Senate Republican Leader McConnell a chance to make his case for Trade Promotion Authority and "give us a chance to move" the FTAs.

House and Senate leaders have agreed on a deal that would provide a path to move the pending free trade agreements forward in conjunction with Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA, retraining for workers laid off by trade impacts) but are still waiting for White House approval of the deal and do not expect that to occur before Congress recesses in August, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (D-MI) said (July 27).

Camp said the administration has not yet signed off on the deal, which would allow it to begin the process of sending the trade deals to Congress, because White House officials who would approve such a deal are the same as those deeply involved in the ongoing debt negotiations.

Camp said he did not think the White House would submit the FTAs until September, after the congressional summer recess that is scheduled to begin August 5.

Camp called the deal "reasonable" and one that will ensure the White House that TAA and the pending trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are voted on. "I think we are trying to bring [the White House] to that conclusion," he said to reporters at the event. "I haven't heard the final word."

The deal would have the Senate vote first on TAA without the trade deals being sent up. Once TAA clears the Senate, the White House should have the assurances to send the FTAs to the House. The House would then move on both the FTAs and TAA separately, Camp said.

"To get the most support we can for TAA we need to have had the [trade] agreements sent up before the House votes on TAA," he said.

Camp said there was the deal has the support of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT).

Separately, in remarks at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this morning, Camp declared that "victory is in sight" on the FTAs, but success is not yet assured. I'm hopeful now that we have this path forward [the White House] will sign on to it," he said.

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