Trade agreements before the Finance Committee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 08 July 2011 12:04
Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Senate Committee on Finance
Executive Session to consider the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement, and the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement
Thursday, July 7, 2011

Let me start by saying I am glad we are here today trying to work out these trade deals.

We all know how important these agreements are.  We can all cite to statistics and data that tell us how much they mean to our economy.  I don’t need to recite numbers, because we already know them.  We have heard the same speeches on the benefits of these agreements for four years.  But these deals have been kicked around and delayed over partisan fights.  The American people simply can’t afford that anymore.

The Obama administration has finally gotten the message that increasing trade has to be a part of growing our economy.  That is why they are willing to move these deals forward.  But now, as we are on the brink of real action, President Obama has moved the goal-posts once again.  Not only are we told that these deals won’t be sent to Congress without a deal on Trade Adjustment Assistance, but we have the unprecedented move of putting TAA into an implementing bill.

There are parts of TAA that I support.  As Ranking Member of this committee, I helped draft some of the reforms Congress passed in 2009.  But the political gamesmanship with these deals by the administration has to stop.  TAA is a spending bill that should be debated and passed on its merits. 

It’s a violation of the process to put a program like this in an implementing bill.  But I know that the Chairman has spoken of some flexibility that might be in that, and I’ve told him that I’d like to help with that process of having a separate and open and fair debate.  I hope we can move forward with that flexibility.  In telling the Chairman that, I’d also like to urge the administration to reconsider its current approach.  Instead, we should come to terms on an agreement for sequencing four separate bills -  including the three separate implementing bills -  And a fourth bill that addresses TAA, trade promotion authority, and the generalized system of preferences.

I was just contacted by an Iowa cattleman who took a trip to Korea less than three weeks ago.  He had a tremendous trip promoting U.S. beef.  But one of his takeaways was that all of Asia is watching how the United States handles these trade deals.  And want to know if the United Sates wants to be in a leadership role for international trade.  They want to know if we are people of action, or just words.  They want to know if we will follow through with these agreements or will we let them languish even longer.  This cattleman came away with the message loud and clear.  Either we get this done, or our trading partners will be looking at other places for the trading terms that they desire.

We don’t want to let that happen.  American farmers, businesses, and workers need greater access to these markets.  They need these trade deals.  I appreciate the Chairman scheduling this session today, and scheduling it so we have an adequate amount of time to address these important issues and at a time when more members of the committee are able to be present.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Statement of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

Wednesday, July 7, 2011

The June unemployment figure is expected on Friday, and this morning there’s a meeting of Finance Committee members about pending international trade agreements with Korea, Panama and Colombia.  Approval of those agreements needs to be part of the economic recovery effort.

These three agreements have been ready for congressional action for more than four years.  Demands made by congressional Democrats were accommodated to get the agreements ready back in 2007.  Even so, the Democratic leadership of Congress has refused to allow a vote.  Since President Obama took office, trade got sidelined even more.  That’s a mistake.  Jobs supported by exports pay 15 percent more than the national average.  Manufacturers, farmers, and the service sector need new markets for their products.  It’s a matter of retaining and creating jobs.

Getting to a congressional vote has been a frustrating process.  A year and a-half ago, President Obama said he wanted to double exports within the next five years.  Still, he let the three trade agreements languish.  This spring, the United States Trade Representative said the trade agreements were ready, but then the administration changed the terms and insisted that the Trade Adjustment Assistance program be passed with the trade agreements.

The Trade Adjustment Assistance program needs to be voted on separately, rather than used to bog down job-generating trade agreements.  The focus needs to stay on helping to spur manufacturing, services and agriculture-related jobs in the United States.  Today, U.S.-Colombia trade is a one-way street.  None of our ag products have duty-free access to the Colombian market, but more than 99 percent of Colombian ag exports enter the U.S. market duty-free.  With a trade agreement, Korea is expected to absorb five percent of total U.S. pork production.  The insurance and financial services industry in the United States, including Iowa, says Korea represents the largest insurance market yet in a free-trade agreement and presents enormous opportunities for domestic job growth.  Panama has tariffs on U.S. beef and corn that would go to zero under a trade agreement.  These trade agreements need to be implemented without delay.

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