Bickering U.S. sees Canada-Colombia deal take force

Mon Aug 15, 2011 3:36pm EDT
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By Doug Palmer

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican lawmakers fumed on Monday over potential lost American exports because of a free trade deal between Canada and Colombia that has taken force before President Barack Obama has even sent a five-year-old U.S.-Colombia agreement to Congress for a vote.

"Today's entry into force of the trade agreement between Canada and Colombia means that -- for no good reason -- U.S. workers and exporters are now disadvantaged in Colombia, a key export market for American-made goods and services," said House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp.

"Our trade agreement with Colombia was signed in 2006, years before Canada and Colombia even began their negotiations ... Once again, I urgently call on the President to send the job-creating trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress without further delay," Camp said in a statement.

Senator Orrin Hatch, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, echoed Camp's demand that Obama quickly send the pacts to Capitol Hill.

"The longer this administration delays the further our economy falls behind," Hatch said, noting U.S. exporters have already paid over $3.5 billion in tariffs on U.S. exports to Colombia since the pact, which would eliminate most of those duties, was signed.

Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's Office, said Obama wanted lawmakers to approve the Colombia agreement "as soon as possible."

"For this reason, we're pleased by Congress's progress toward a path forward for all three pending trade agreements and Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)," a nearly 50-year program for workers displaced by trade, Guthrie said.

"While we all work together to nail down the details of how these agreements and TAA will move, we can all agree that there's no more time to lose," she said.   Continued...