Congressman Gregory W. Meeks Statement on the Passage of the Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free-Trade Agreements (FTA) and Renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA)

Oct 13, 2011

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks Statement on the Passage of the Colombia, Panama and South Korea Free-Trade Agreements (FTA) and Renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA)

Excerpt: Nearly 40 million jobs in the U.S. depend on trade, and thousands of those jobs are in New York’s Sixth Congressional District.

 (WASHINGTON, DC) – Congressman Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee today voted in favor of free-trade agreements (FTAs) between the United States and Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, and renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA) for those who may be displaced by trade. 

“With passage of these agreements we leveled the playing field for American businesses so that they have access to the markets of these important allies and can then create more jobs here at home.  These agreements will lead to billions in exports added to the United States economy.  The Korea agreement alone is estimated to increase U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by $10 billion once fully implemented, and that estimate does not take into full account the impact of the reduction of barriers to trade in services and to foreign investment flows and the impact of changes in regulations as a result of the KORUS FTA,” said Congressman Meeks. 

Representative Meeks continues, “Deepening our ties in our hemisphere and in Asia is not only the right thing to do; it is the strategically smart thing to do for our country’s economic prosperity and long-term security.  I voted for these agreements with a sense of urgency because, while we have been waiting on passage of the agreements South Korea, has moved forward on trade with Europe, and Colombia and Panama are moving forward on several bilateral agreements of their own with Canada, China and others.  The economic costs of not acting up to this point are astounding.”

Nearly 40 million jobs in the U.S. depend on trade, and thousands of those jobs are in New York’s Sixth Congressional District.  “As a representative of John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) I also represent foreign freight forwarders and brokers that are responsible for the movement of goods throughout our region and nation, and many financial services sector workers who understand the linkage between their jobs and the global market place,” stated U.S. Rep. Meeks.  Meeks added, “Thousands of families in my district depend on increased trade of goods and services for their economic survival.  Over 10,000 jobs in my district are directly supported by exports alone; many more depend on two way trade directly or indirectly. Not since the early 19th century have exports been more important to the U.S. as we look to recover from the financial crisis.”

The Obama Administration improved all three agreements by addressing critical issues.  The Administration secured greater U.S. access to South Korea’s auto market; enhanced tax transparency in Panama; and advanced worker protections and labor rights in Colombia with an agreed upon action plan.  Several organized labor groups in Colombia have made public statements about the importance of the Labor Action Plan on the ground in Colombia.  The Administration has been clear that Colombia must continue to honor the plan, and must successfully implement key elements before the trade agreement can enter into force.  Significantly, enhancements by the administration facilitated broad support of the U.S.-South Korea agreement including support from United Auto workers, and the big three auto makers.   

TAA is traditionally in tandem with trade agreement passage and is designed to help workers, firms and farmers transition to alternative employment by providing training and economic support for workers who are negatively affected by trade.  A crucial aspect of the bill is the coverage of American workers in the services sector where most Americans are employed.