US Senators Reach Compromise on Free Trade Deals

Posted August 4th, 2011 at 2:25 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Senate leaders have reached a potential bipartisan compromise on three long-delayed free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday they have come to an agreement on unemployment benefits that will likely allow lawmakers to approve the trade deals once Congress returns from its summer recess.

The trade pacts were held up in part after the White House and Republicans disagreed over a provision that would link the trade agreements to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which is aimed at compensating American workers hurt by overseas competition.

In a joint statement released Wednesday, Reid and McConnell said they have now reached a “path forward” on the benefit program, saying they expect the Senate to take up the three trade deals after Congress returns in the beginning of September.

The impasse over the trade deals was largely overshadowed by Congress’ long battle to raise the debt ceiling and cut government spending, which was resolved this week just hours before Tuesday’s deadline to avoid a potential American debt default.

Putting the three trade agreements into effect has been a White House priority almost since President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. His predecessor, President George W. Bush, reached the agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea more than four years ago.

The agreements are expected to increase American exports by at least $12 billion a year and support 70,000 jobs.