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Brady Announces First in a Series of Three Hearings on the Pending, Job-Creating Trade Agreements
Congressman Kevin Brady (R-TX), Chairman, Subcommittee on Trade of the Committee on Ways and Means, today announced that the Subcommittee will hold a series of hearings on the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. According to the President’s own statements, these agreements have the ability to create over 250,000 American jobs. The first hearing will address the agreement with Colombia. The hearing will take place on Thursday, March 17, 2011, in the main Committee hearing room, 1100 Longworth House Office Building, beginning at 10:00 A.M. The Subcommittee will soon advise regarding hearings on the trade agreements with Panama and South Korea.
The Colombia trade agreement was also discussed at the Ways and Means Committee hearing with Ambassador Kirk, on February 9, 2011. At that hearing, in response to Chairman Camp’s request that Ambassador Kirk set forth a concrete timeline for Congressional consideration of the Colombia trade agreement within the first six months of the year, Ambassador Kirk said that he would be sending a delegation to Colombia and would then develop “a workable plan” for moving the Colombia agreement forward. Ambassador Kirk stated that, prior to the submission of the FTA, “it will be imperative to resolve issues regarding laws and practices impacting the protection of internationally-recognized labor rights, as well as issues concerning violence against labor leaders and the prosecution of the perpetrators.” He further noted that the President had “directed us to intensify our engagement with Colombia so that we can resolve these outstanding issues this year.” The delegation sent by Ambassador Kirk was in Colombia the week of February 15.
The U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement would open new markets to U.S. exports and, in turn, benefit American businesses, farmers, workers, and consumers. The independent U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has estimated that implementing the agreement would increase U.S. exports by $1.1 billion and add $2.5 billion per year to U.S. GDP. The benefits of trade agreements are also long-lasting. Since 2000, U.S. exports to the 13 countries with which the United States has implemented trade agreements have grown almost twice as fast as our worldwide exports.
Colombia has concluded trade agreements with major trading partners and export competitors of the United States, so U.S. failure to implement our own trade agreement with Colombia could severely disadvantage U.S. exporters and jeopardize U.S. job creation. The Canada-Colombia trade agreement is expected to enter into force around July 1 of this year, removing significant Colombian tariffs for Canadian agriculture exporters while similar tariffs remain in place against U.S. agriculture exports. In 2008, Colombia implemented a trade agreement with the MERCOSUR countries, including Argentina and Brazil. Subsequent to implementation of that agreement, key U.S. agricultural exports to Colombia have decreased significantly.
Over the years, several objections have been raised to our trade agreement with Colombia. Some have argued that sustained progress to address concerns about Colombian labor law and violence against workers in Colombia must occur before it is appropriate to consider the agreement. However, supporters of the agreement argue that passing the agreement will improve labor protections and express frustration the Administration has not identified concrete steps for Colombia to take to address concerns.
In announcing this hearing, Chairman Brady said, “Failure to move forward with the U.S.-Colombia trade agreement is undermining U.S. influence and leadership in our own hemisphere and putting at risk both good U.S. jobs and the competitiveness of U.S. exporters. The United States cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while Colombia implements trade agreements with other major countries, putting American workers, farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, service providers, and other exporters at a competitive disadvantage. We need a concrete plan now from the Administration for moving forward with the Colombia agreement, to allow Congressional consideration of all three pending trade agreements by July 1.”
FOCUS OF THE HEARING:
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