“Until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The following is a letter signed by 44 Republican Senators, including Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Whip Jon Kyl, Ranking Member for the Senate Finance Committee Senator Orrin Hatch and former U.S. Trade Representative, Senator Rob Portman, which was delivered to Senator Harry Reid on Monday. The letter states “As a result of the administration’s failure to act on these agreements, American companies and their workers are losing market share and are being denied valuable business opportunities. At the same time, Colombia and Panama are continuing to expand their trading partnerships elsewhere, signing bilateral free trade agreements with the European Union, Canada, and other countries which are eager to move into these large markets at the expense of U.S. workers.”
FTAs Letter 44 Signatures Full letter to Senator Reid: Dear Leader Reid:
With nearly 14 million Americans out of work, we believe that helping American-based businesses create good paying private-sector jobs is among the most important things Congress can do right now. Opening up foreign markets to American-made goods is a low-cost step Congress can take to encourage job creation. For too long, however, the administration has delayed sending up legislation for free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. These agreements were negotiated and finalized more than three years ago. Through these agreements Colombia and Panama committed to opening their markets to U.S. exports and adopting rules of trade that will make it easier for U.S. workers to export to these markets. Concluding these agreements will provide new export opportunities for U.S. businesses and workers.
We are disappointed by the President’s apparent lack of interest in seeking approval of these free trade agreements. The time for delay is over. Colombia and Panama are strong democratic allies in Latin America and both have undertaken serious and meaningful reforms, many of which directly address the concerns of those who want to further delay these agreements. Yet the administration continues to move the goalpost by withholding clear direction and not providing a specific timetable for implementation.
As a result of the administration’s failure to act on these agreements, American companies and their workers are losing market share and are being denied valuable business opportunities. At the same time, Colombia and Panama are continuing to expand their trading partnerships elsewhere, signing bilateral free trade agreements with the European Union, Canada, and other countries which are eager to move into these large markets at the expense of U.S. workers.
Any further delay of these agreements is unnecessary and inexcusable. So important are these deals to our economy and our relations with these key allies in Latin America that, until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees.
We look forward to the opportunity to vote on and send these agreements to the President this year.
Dems On The Colombia & Panama FTAs: ‘A Sure Way To Create Jobs’
‘The Time Is Here, The Time Is Now,’ ‘We Need To Bring All Three Pending Agreements To A Conclusion’
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT): “The Time Is Here. The Time Is Now. In Fact, The Time Has Passed To Ratify The Colombia Free Trade Agreement. It’s Long Passed. We’re Losing Market Share Hand Over Fist… It Is Time To Quickly Resolve The Outstanding Issues On Our Pending FTAs With Colombia, Panama, And Korea, And We Must Approve All Three Agreements This Year.” (“Democrats Vs. Obama On Trade,” The Wall Street Journal, 3/14/11)
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): “I Want To Add My Comments To The Chairman’s Comments. I Support The Colombia Free Trade Act. … This Is Good For Our Country And It’s Certainly Good For My State Because We Have A Great Deal Of Trade Both Ways With Colombia. The Same With Panama As Well.” “I want to add my comments to the Chairman’s comments. I support the Colombia Free Trade Act. I’ve been there, I’ve been there in a capacity as part of the Intel Committee as well as the Armed Services Committee. I visited with then Defense Minister Santos when Colombia pulled off one of the most magnificent ruses of all time that allowed us to get three Americans out of the jungles, having been held by the FARC for a half a dozen years. And now the Defense Minister is now President. And this is good for our country and it’s certainly good for my state because we have a great deal of trade both ways with Colombia. The same with Panama as well.” (U.S. Senate, Finance Committee, Hearing, 3/9/11)
SEN. TOM CARPER (D-DE): “I Support Moving Forward With Trade Agreements With Korea, Colombia And Panama … The Time To Act Is Now.” “While there are a few issues that I know are being worked out in finalizing the agreements, I support moving forward with trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama … It is estimated that the Free Trade Agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama will lead to an additional $150 million a year in export revenue for the U.S. chicken industry and will create 13,500 new jobs in the industry, resulting in an additional $11 million per year in export revenue and 1,000 new jobs in the chicken industry in Delaware. In order to sell more of our commodities overseas, like chickens, we must remove trade barriers that prevent other countries from buying our goods. Tariffs like those that American businesses are faced with in Korea, which average 54 percent, have hindered our companies from gaining access to important markets overseas. Colombia is advancing in its trade relations with Canada and China, giving greater access to their goods each day that we wait. The time to act is now, and while there is still a bit more work that needs to be done, I am confident that we can work together here in Congress and with the Administration to advance these three trade agreements.” (Sen. Carper, “Finance Hearing Statement: ‘The President’s 2011 Trade Agenda,’” 3/9/11)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (ID-CT): “Increasing Our Nation’s Exports Is A Sure Way To Create Jobs, Strengthen Our Domestic Manufacturing Base, And Accelerate Our Economic Recovery … Passing these trade agreements and extending Trade Promotion Authority is also inseparable from America’s national security.” (Sen. Lieberman, Press Release, 1/25/11)
- “Today, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), A Former United States Trade Representative, And Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), Introduced The Creating American Jobs Through Exports Act Of 2011. The Legislation Would Express Congress’ Support For Passing The Pending Trade Agreements With South Korea, Colombia And Panama. The Creating American Jobs Through Exports Act would also reinstate the Obama Administration’s trade negotiating authority. Both parts of the legislation are critical actions necessary to increase exports, create a more job-friendly environment for American job creators, and advance America’s national security interests.” (Sen. Lieberman, Press Release, 1/25/11)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): “To Reclaim Our Leadership Role In The World On Trade, We Need To Bring All Three Pending Agreements To A Conclusion By The End Of This Year…” (Sen. Kerry, Press Release, 3/9/11)
SEN. MARK UDALL (D-CO): “I Would Welcome The Opportunity To Look At The Three Outstanding Trade Agreements – [South] Korea, Panama And Colombia. … Let Us At Least Bring Them To The Floor Of The Senate.” “One of the ways we are going to grow our way out of the economic recession we have been in is to have fair but open trade agreements. And I would welcome the opportunity to look at the three outstanding trade agreements – [South] Korea, Panama and Colombia. I have not made a determination whether I would vote for them or not. But let us at least bring them to the floor of the Senate.” (Sen. Udall, Voice of America News, 2/9/11)