Oct. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation for free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama reached more than four years ago, sending the measures to the Senate for final votes tonight.
“We want America to compete and win, and today’s action shows our friends and allies around the world that America is leading again by resurrecting a robust trade agenda,” Representative Dave Camp, the Michigan Republican who leads the House Ways and Means Committee, said in an e-mailed statement.
The accords, reached under President George W. Bush and revised by the Obama administration, had been stymied in a stalemate with Republicans over aid for workers who lose their jobs to foreign competition. President Barack Obama submitted legislation on Oct. 3 after House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said he would consider the worker assistance in tandem with the trade deals. The House voted 307-122 to pass the worker-aid legislation.
The House and Senate debated the agreements as South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak visited Washington. Lee is scheduled to address Congress tomorrow.
“The trade bills we’ll be voting on tonight are a start,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the floor. “There’s no reason we should have had to wait nearly three years for this president to send them up to Congress for a vote, but they’re a good start nonetheless.”
The House voted 278-151 for the South Korea agreement, 300-129 for the Panama deal and 262-167 to pass legislation on the Colombia accord.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of labor unions and a frequent Democratic ally, had urged lawmakers to oppose the Colombia deal, saying the nation remains the world’s most dangerous for workers. Fifty-one Colombian union members were killed last year, up from 47 in 2009, according to the National Union School, a labor- rights organization based in Medellin, Colombia.
The South Korea deal, the biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement, would boost U.S. exports by as much as $10.9 billion in the first year in which it’s in full effect, according to the U.S. International Trade Commission. The accord with Colombia would increase exports by as much as $1.1 billion a year.
--Editors: Steve Geimann, Larry Liebert
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