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More Problems for FTA?

Amendments to help move agreements forward are voted down in the Senate.

Published on: Sep 22, 2011

Senate Republicans have lost bids to pare spending President Obama wants for trade-displaced workers or conditioning it on passage of the three pending free trade deals, raising the possibility of still more FTA problems. The defeated amendments would have either cut hundreds of millions for so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance, conditioned its renewal on passage of the free trade agreements or extended long-expired Trade Promotion Authority.

Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was the Senator behind the effort to condition TAA on the passage of the trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

"Let's get rid of the mistrust, let's do this in a straight up way, let's do it so everyone knows what's going to happen," Hatch said. "Trade Adjustment Assistance will ultimately come into effect, but only after the Administration lives up to submitting these trade agreements and they're passed."

Hatch asked why expensive TAA would be needed if the FTAs don't pass, and expressed concern about what would happen to the trade agreements if Obama doesn't win on TAA.

"I'm personally not sure that Trade Adjustment Assistance will pass without my amendment, that's onw reason I brought it to the floor; it's a fair, decent, honorable way of saying okay, let's get rid of the mysteries here, let's get rid of the arguments, let's get rid of the partisanship," Hatch said. "Let's vote on this Trade Adjustment Assistance,  and when they are voted through by both the House and the Senate, let's bring up the three trade agreements, which should pass readily in both houses, and once they become law Trade Adjustment Assistance comes into being."

But Hatch did not have the votes in the Senate for his amendment, raising the threat the issue could spill over into the Republican-controlled House, and again put a stumbling block in front of the trade deals.