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The Associated Press May 16, 2011, 10:16AM ET

White House threatens to hold up key trade deals

The White House says it will not send Congress final legislation on three coveted free trade agreements unless lawmakers expand retraining assistance for American workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program, or TAA, was expanded two years ago as part of President Barack Obama's stimulus package to include aid for more displaced workers. But the expansion expired in February.

The White House's insistence that the trade deals be linked to the TAA program comes as administration officials hold talks with Congress to finalize the agreements it reached with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Republicans broadly support the pacts and Obama has said they are integral to his economic agenda.

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