On Wednesday, legislators in the House approved the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which allows the import of goods from over 120 countries without tariffs. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) advocates hope the vote will grease the skids for passage of pending deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.
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That may be wishful thinking. Facing the expectation that the FTAs will lead to the loss of U.S. jobs, Democrats are unlikely to vote for the FTAs without funding of the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Republicans have balked at the expense of extending the TAA, which would retrain those who lose their jobs due to the FTAs.
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts --who said “holding these agreements hostage by insisting on the passage of TAA is pure political gamesmanship, plain and simple”-- called on President Obama to allow immediate votes on “clean” FTA bills.
“Collectively, the pending trade agreements add up to $13 billion in additional exports and an estimated 250,000 jobs. From the ag perspective, the three pending trade agreements represent $2.5 billion upon full implementation. … The (Obama) administration’s use of these economic opportunities as leverage for more federal spending does not create jobs. It merely delays economic growth and is counterproductive to recovery efforts.
“Until we act on these job creating deals, U.S. producers and exporters will continue to lose market share to our competitors.
“For example, over the past two years, U.S. wheat producers have already lost market share to Argentina – which receives preferential treatment based on a regional trade agreement. Just a couple of years ago, the U.S. share of the Colombian wheat market fell from 73 percent (2008) to 43 percent (2010) - a 30 percent loss in two years. Including corn and soybeans, the loss increases to 44 percent.”