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Camp Sets Deadline for Moving the Three Pending Trade Agreements, But When Will the Administration Act?

February 11, 2011

Multiple media outlets this week reported on the call by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) to move the three pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea by July 1, 2011.  For example, the Washington Post reported on Camp’s call for action by the Administration, noting he commented that delayed action “severely disadvantages U.S. businesses who sell their products in these markets,” and “other countries are signing agreements that lower barriers for their exports and seize our opportunities.”

Despite longstanding and increasingly urgent calls for action on all three agreements, the Administration has still made no meaningful commitment to act on Colombia and Panama.  In fact, for more than two years, the Administration has not identified concrete outstanding issues and specific, reasonable steps to resolve such issues within a clear timeframe.  In the meantime, we are losing opportunities to support much-needed jobs here in the United States. 
Camp’s call to action was joined by statements from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  Today, Camp reiterated his deadline, making the following statement:

“The Administration’s failure to define specific action items and a clear deadline for resolving any outstanding issues related to the pending trade agreements with Colombia and Panama is the most significant roadblock to advancing the rest of our trade agenda.  The President’s continued unwillingness to outline a reasonable path forward to quickly move all three job-creating agreements suggests that trade is not a priority for his Administration.  I want to move all three agreements by July 1.  Without this commitment from the Administration, other trade measures – such as TAA and ATPA, which we sought to extend this week – are now in limbo, and American workers will suffer as a result.”
Senator Baucus expressed similar sentiments this week on the urgent need for action by the Administration, stating, “The Administration needs to quickly resolve these issues so Congress can approve all three of the pending free trade agreements as soon as possible to help Americans export their goods and services and create jobs here at home.”   

Senator Hatch echoed Camp this week on the need to quickly move the three pending trade agreements, stating, “The time for talk is over; now’s the time for immediate and meaningful action.  I hope and expect the Administration to make specific progress and provide a clear and reasonable timetable for moving both of these agreements forward in the coming weeks.” 

How not passing the three pending trade agreements is affecting U.S. workers and growth:

  • The independent U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that implementation of the three pending trade agreements would increase U.S. exports by at least $13 billion and add $10 billion to U.S. GDP.  Using the President’s own measure, such an increase in U.S. exports could create 250,000 American jobs.

  • The American Farm Bureau estimates that U.S. farm exports could increase by more than $690 million per year to Colombia; more than $195 million per year to Panama; and more than $1.8 billion per year to South Korea.

  • Most imports from Colombia and Panama already enter the United States duty free, and U.S. exports to South Korea face much higher tariffs than our imports from South Korea. These agreements would eliminate, or substantially lower, the tariffs on U.S. exports to these markets.

Statements from Job creators demonstrating the urgent need to act on all three trade agreements:

National Association of Manufacturers: “American workers benefit from our nation’s exports. Exports create jobs in American factories.…We need all 3 agreements. And we need them now. In fact, we needed them in 2007.”

GE:  “GE supports the passage of all three pending free trade agreements.  To promote U.S. global competitiveness, we encourage the Administration and Congress to immediately focus on passing these important market-opening agreements now and move to negotiate additional agreements.”
U.S. Chamber of Commerce:  “Four years of delay on these trade agreements with Colombia and Panama have cost thousands of American jobs and battered U.S. market share in these countries.  The time for talk is over.  To create American jobs, we need to see action.”
National Foreign Trade Council:  “The three pending trade agreements…are essential to helping our economy grow, creating jobs and further strengthening diplomatic relations….We urge Congress and the Administration to continue engaging in open dialogue and work together constructively to take the necessary steps to secure approval of all three trade agreements this year.”