Free Trade Agreement Trio, If Colombia Meets Benchmarks

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Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has stated that the House is unwilling to consider any trade agreement unless Congress considers Colombia, Panama, and South Korea at the same time.

"U.S. job creators and workers are every day put at a disadvantage to foreign competitors from countries that have already concluded trade agreements without us. The more we delay, the more we lose. The time to act is now," Camp, R-Michigan, said Monday.

In his State of the Union President Obama urged Congress to act swiftly to pass the South Korean trade agreement, saying it would "support at least 70,000 American jobs" and has "unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans."

President Obama went on to mention support for agreements with Panama and Colombia.

"I made it clear that we would enforce our trade agreements, and that I would only sign deals that keep faith with American workers and promote American jobs. That's what we did with Korea, and that's what I intend to do as we pursue agreements with Panama and Colombia and continue our Asia Pacific and global trade talks."

Obama's trade initiatives unveiled in January 2010 are intended to support 2 million jobs by the end of 2014, while trade agreements with South Korea will allow greater access to their $580 billion services market. Agreements with Panama and Colombia will allow US access to the countries' $20.6 billion and $134 billion services market respectively, "supporting thousands of additional American jobs," according to the Office of US Trade Representatives.

The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, said failure to ratify free-trade accords with key allies Panama and Colombia would further cede market share to countries including China, costing U.S. jobs.

"The U.S. is losing "large-scale" investment projects in Panama such as the $5.25 billion canal expansion and the $1.5 billion Panama City Metro "to non-American firms," Lugar said in a February 8 statement.

The Panama Trade Promotion Agreement would guarantee access to Panama's $20.6 billion services market and removes barriers to U.S. goods entering Panama's markets.

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