Trade Deals Pass House, Senate

Oct 13, 2011, 11:40 by R.E. Christian

President Barack Obama said House and Senate passage Wednesday of three free-trade agreements was "a major win for American workers and businesses."

With some Democrats joining most Republicans, both chambers passed and sent to the White House agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Although many liberal economists discount the value of the agreements in U.S. job creation, passage of the pacts is seen as a legislative victory for Obama, The Hill reported.

The South Korea agreement is the largest free-trade deal enacted by Congress since the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico during the 1990s, the Capitol Hill publication said. It comes as the White House prepared to welcome South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for a state dinner, and Lee prepared to address a joint session of Congress.

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama said congressional passage of the three trade deals will "significantly boost exports that bear the proud label 'Made in America,' support tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs and protect labor rights, the environment and intellectual property."

"The landmark trade agreements and assistance for American workers that passed tonight are a major win for American workers and businesses," the president said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi voted in favor of the South Korea and Panama deals but opposed the Colombia agreement, saying it would only create a few thousand jobs, The Hill reported.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who voted for the South Korea and Panama deals, said he voted against the agreement with Colombia because "much more needs to be done" to improve human rights in Colombia."

"I support trade with Colombia and hope a free trade agreement is in our future, but I cannot ignore the fact that my vote for this Colombia free trade agreement would indicate that enough has been done to stem human rights abuses in Colombia," Durbin said. "It hasn't."

Source: UPI