Obama says announcement on 3 trade deals coming soon, would set stage for passage

By Associated Press, Updated: Monday, October 3, 1:14 PM

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said the White House will have an announcement “in the next day or so” on sending three free trade agreements to Congress, a move that would put the deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama on a path toward final passage after years of delay.

Separately, an official familiar with the discussions said the White House was expected to send the trade deals to lawmakers Monday afternoon.

Obama has made the trade pacts a centerpiece of his economic agenda. He’s repeatedly said the agreements would support tens of thousands of jobs and boost U.S. exports.

Trade is a rare issue on which the White House and congressional Republicans agree on policy objectives. But the two sides have been stuck in procedural fights for months, delaying implementation of the agreements.

The White House had held off sending Congress the final legislation until the Senate approved an assistance package to train workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. The Senate eventually passed the Trade Adjustment Assistance package last month, in coordination with the White House.

The assistance package is yet to pass the House, though Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has pledged to take up the bill in tandem with the three trade agreements. Boehner has said all four could be finalized by mid-October.

The White House is hoping to show significant progress on final passage by the time South Korea’s president arrives at the White House for a state dinner on Oct. 13. The South Korea deal is by far the largest of the agreements, and the administration says it could support up to 70,000 jobs.

The official familiar with the discussions spoke on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not been made.

The U.S. signed the trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia in 2007 under President George W. Bush. But the Democratic-controlled Congress never brought the agreements up for a vote, giving the next administration of Barack Obama time to renegotiate areas it found objectionable.

U.S. trade officials spent months negotiating outstanding issues on the pacts, reaching an agreement with South Korea in December. The pact would boost U.S. exports by $11 billion a year, according to the administration.

Deals were struck this past spring with Panama, one of Latin America’s fastest-growing economies, and Colombia. The administration says a final pact with Colombia will boost U.S. exports by more than $1 billion per year.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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