Obama Said To Delay Trade Accords Over Worker Aid Dispute

Mark Drajem and Eric Martin, Bloomberg President Barack Obama will delay sending free-trade agreements to Congress until lawmakers return from an August recess as a dispute with Republicans over a worker-aid program remains unresolved, according to people familiar with the decision. Approval of the free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, reached under President George W. Bush, stalled last month after Republicans opposed linking them to an aid program for workers hurt by global competition, called Trade Adjustment Assistance. “At this time, we are still in active discussions with Congress regarding the process for proceeding with the three FTAs and TAA as soon as possible,” Matthew Vogel, a White House spokesman, said today, without discussing a delay. Obama and lawmakers also are involved in talks to end a stalemate over the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt limit, and leaders in Congress asked the administration to delay the trade deals while the debt talks continue, according to a person familiar with the talks. Lawmakers are set to recess on Aug. 8, which may leave too little time to also pass the trade pacts, three people said. William Daley, Obama’s chief of staff, said yesterday that the president plans to send the agreements “very soon,” while declining to say whether a vote would occur before the break. Representative Kevin Brady, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s panel on trade, said Congress has time to act on the agreements before the recess. ‘Stakes Are High’ “If the White House is considering not sending them, I hope they’ll reconsider,” Brady, a Texas Republican, said today at an event in Washington. “The stakes are very high and the time is now.” A series of other trade pacts had been voted on in the days before recessing in August, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement in 2005, which passed the House by two votes. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said on June 30 that the administration hoped for bipartisan support that would let the trade-deal measures be approved before the recess. In a speech in Washington today, he didn’t put a deadline on the process. “We want to bring home the job-building benefits of these agreements as soon as possible,” Kirk said. Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pressed lawmakers to reach a compromise amid concern U.S. companies will lose market share as competitors move forward with separate agreements. A South Korean free-trade deal with the European Union went into effect July 1, putting U.S. producers of autos, pharmaceuticals and scientific equipment at a disadvantage in the Asian economy. A deal between Colombia and Canada is scheduled to take effect Aug. 15. Read original post here.