(H.R. 2832) On an amendment that would have required the International Trade Commission (ITC, which provides analysis of trade policies to all branches of the federal government) to provide Congress with an analysis of the impact of delaying free-trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama on American businesses and employment
This was an amendment by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) that would have required the International Trade Commission (ITC, which provides analysis of trade policies to all branches of the federal government) to provide Congress with an analysis of the impact of delaying free-trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama on American businesses and employment. This amendment was offered to legislation that would extend a non-controversial trade program known as the “General System of Preferences” through 2013.
Thune urged support for his amendment: “One would think passage of these trade agreements, which were signed in 2006 and 2007, would have been an early priority for the Obama administration. Yet here we are more than 2 1/2 years into this administration, and the President still has not made a commitment to send us the trade agreements so we can consider them….My amendment follows a very basic principle. If the President believes a trade agreement is in America's national and economic interests, he needs to submit it to Congress. If he does not submit it to Congress, we need to have better information as to what the costs are of that delay. If we think these trade agreements are important--and the president spent much of the month of August talking about the need to pass them, so clearly he believes they are important--then we need to be able to more effectively weigh the disadvantages imposed upon American businesses and consumers as a result of not implementing them….Let's consider the cost of delay to just one U.S. company, Caterpillar. As we all know, Caterpillar is a leading producer of large construction and mining equipment and a major U.S. exporter. Caterpillar exports 92 percent of its American-made large mining trucks. Caterpillar's large truck exports to Colombia face a 15-percent duty, which adds about $300,000 to the cost of each of those trucks exported to Colombia. Just imagine the advantage Caterpillar could have had for the last several years over its Japanese and Chinese competitors if the Democratic House in 2008 had not refused to consider the Colombia agreement when President Bush submitted it or if President Obama had submitted it promptly upon taking office.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) opposed Thune’s amendment: “Our exporters face major challenges in global markets. We are faced with surging imports from China. China has a regime in place that is cheating American innovators and forcing them to share their intellectual property. Instead of dedicating the scarce resources of the International Trade Commission to look into these issues and to identify other foreign trade barriers that impede our exporters, we would essentially task the International Trade Commission to tell us what we already know. For example, we know that in the case of the pending agreements, we had an opportunity to get a better deal for our companies that export automobiles and to promote human rights in Colombia by reducing violence. We are on the precipice of considering these agreements. Let's not turn back the clock. Instead of using scarce resources to have an armchair debate about what we already know, let's dedicate the resources of this agency to help workers and businesses.”
[The General System of Preferences program allows developing nations to ship raw materials to the U.S. without paying duties on those products. Senate Democrats had brought up the non-controversial General System of Preferences bill with the intention of amending it in order to extend trade adjustment assistance programs through fiscal year 2016. (The extension of TAA--which provides job retraining to workers who lost their jobs as a result of trade policy--would effectively clear the way for the enactment of free-trade agreements between the U.S. and Colombia, South Korea, and Panama; President Obama had indicated he would send those agreements to Congress for approval if the House and Senate passed legislation to extend TAA.)]
The Senate rejected Thune’s amendment by a vote of 44-52. All 43 Republicans present and 1 Democrat voted “yea.” 52 Democrats voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate rejected an amendment that would have required the ITC to provide Congress with an analysis of the impact of delaying free-trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama on American businesses and employment.