Many people are assiduously trying to reach a political modus vivendi that permits a vote on the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Seems like there might be reasons for optimism given recent progress on Trade Adjustment Assistance.
Pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea stand on their own merits, but if it takes a little logrolling to break a logjam, a compromise or two on Trade Adjustment Assistance, then fine.
From National Journal’s Congress Daily:
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said [Wednesday] negotiators are “quite close” to reaching agreement on a Trade Adjustment Assistance package for displaced workers, although he declined to give a time line for action. “There’s only so many legislative weeks left,” he said. “I’d like to get it done by the end of this month, but I can’t guarantee anything.” Baucus and Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, with whom he co-sponsored a TAA expansion bill, announced today a new business coalition to help spur movement on the measure. Baucus and Snowe would double job-training funds, expand coverage to service-sector workers, and increase tax credits for health insurance. They also want to expand coverage to workers whose job loss was not a direct result of trade with countries that the United States has a trade agreement with, as the current TAA program is structured.
In a release on Colombia’s presidential Web site, Trade Minister Luis Guillermo Plata said U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson advised him that efforts to persuade congressional Democrats to hold a vote on the long-stalled pact were starting to look up. Such a vote could be held as soon as the interim between November’s election and the inauguration of the next president.
Paulson has been working the Hill almost weekly selling the virtues of free trade, and it might finally be bearing fruit. Spokeswoman Brooke McLaughlin said “he conveyed (to Plata) how hard he was working to make progress in Congress.”
But would a Colombia vote have to wait until after the November elections? Time’s wasting…
Yesterday at 8:51 p.m., the Colombia Tariff Ticker rolled to a staggering $1 billion. The ticker tracks the estimated tariffs imposed on American-made goods entering Colombia since the signing of the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement 531 days ago. The Agreement would remove tariffs on U.S. exports to Colombia if approved by Congress. Every single second that goes by without a vote on the Agreement costs roughly $22, and nearly $2 million every day.
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