WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – U.S. Republican lawmakers fumed yesterday over potential lost American exports because of a free trade deal between Canada and Colombia that has taken force before President Barack Obama has even sent a five-year-old U.S-Colombia agreement to Congress for a vote.
“Today’s entry into force of the trade agreement between Canada and Colombia means that — for no good reason — U.S. workers and exporters are now disadvantaged in Colombia, a key export market for American-made goods and services,” said House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp.
“Our trade agreement with Colombia was signed in 2006, years before Canada and Colombia even began their negotiations … Once again, I urgently call on the President to send the job-creating trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress without further delay,” Camp said in a statement.
The administration of former President George W. Bush, a Republican, negotiated all three agreements but was not able to get them through the Democratic-controlled Congress.
The Obama administration, in a move to the center after Republicans won control of the House in the November 2010 elections, renegotiated with each country to address concerns raised by Democrats.
But its hope of passing the three trade deals by the end of July fell victim to the battle over raising the U.S. debt ceiling and a separate fight over Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a nearly 50-year-old program to help retrain Americans thrown out of work by imports or companies moving overseas.
Republicans objected to a White House plan to include a TAA extension in the implementing bill for the South Korea agreement and demanded a separate vote on the program.
That appears now to be the plan for TAA and the pacts when lawmakers return to Washington in September, although some Democrats remain suspicious that Republicans will try to kill the worker retraining program if it is not shielded by the South Korea deal.
Meanwhile, a free trade pact between the European Union and South Korea went into force on July 1.
That deal was also negotiated after the U.S.-South Korea agreement, which was signed in June 2007.
Representative Kevin Brady, a Republican, said the delay in passing the trade deals is costing jobs.
“Already, Colombia’s largest cookie and cracker company (Nutresa), which accounts for over half of Colombia’s wheat imports, has announced it will switch its U.S. wheat orders to Canadian wheat,” Brady said.