Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said this week the path is clear in his chamber for consideration of trade adjustment assistance (TAA) and long-pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Reid indicated action on TAA and, later, the FTAs could begin following Senate consideration of legislation related to transportation funding and disaster assistance, both of which have had some delays in recent days.
Still, even with an uncertain timeline, Reid said the trade measures could be considered by the end of the month.
The plan going forward is uniquely Washingtonian in its complexity:
- First, the House passed a bill last week to renew the generalized system of preferences (GSP), a largely non-controversial program designed to provide developing countries reduced trade duties.
- Following clearance of the transportation and disaster measures, the Senate should soon take up GSP, attaching TAA provisions, which many Democrats, including President Barack Obama, have made a requirement for consideration of the FTAs.
- The GSP/TAA bill would then go back to the House, where it is expected to pass.
- At that point, all political roadblocks should be cleared, and the Administration should be willing to send the FTAs to Capitol Hill for consideration.
While new roadblocks could emerge in the form of procedural objections or amendments to the GSP/TAA package before final passage, the path as outlined is the clearest it has been since the agreements were signed more than four years ago.
NAWG, U.S. Wheat Associates and other agricultural organizations have been closely watching the FTA process. The wheat industry has long supported quick passage of the measures, which will help the industry maintain and grow market share in increasingly competitive countries, especially Colombia.
For more about the wheat industry’s position on the FTAs, please visit www.wheatworld.org/trade.