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For Immediate Release: March 16th, 2008

Political Standoff: TAA and Colombia

Fast-track authority for the administration unraveled, making it less likely that the US-Colombia FTA will move forward now.  Congressional leadership wants to see progress on ‘Trade Adjustment Assistance’ for displaced workers first.

Last year, USTR wrapped up negotiations on four bilateral free trade agreements just in time to submit the texts of those agreements to Congress under Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).  One of these agreements—with Peru—was passed earlier this year using these ‘fast track’ rules.  The Democratic leadership in Congress, however, had signaled its concerns about the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and asked the Bush administration not to submit that agreement to Congress until issues pertaining to labor rights and violence against trade unionists in Colombia had been resolved.

In a break with usual practice, the administration did submit the agreement to Congress, starting the clock on a 90-day timetable for consideration of this Free Trade Agreement.  But Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded with a precedent-breaking move of her own—amending House rules so as to deny ‘fast track’ consideration of the Agreement.

As Inside U.S. Trade noted today in an on-line op-ed, “fast-track might prove the principal casualty of the confrontation between the White House and Capitol Hill over the Colombia Free Trade Agreement…. Amity has finally broken down over the White House sending the Colombia deal to Capitol Hill without the consent of the House leadership and the House subsequently stripping the bill of its fast-track assurance to be voted on within 90 days.”

Earlier, Congressional leaders had indicated they wanted to see action to renew the Trade Adjustment Assurance Act--legislation that provides a set of benefits to American workers displaced by global trade—before they would consider approving any more trade agreements.  See Trade Topics: Trade Adjustment Assistance for more information about this legislation and the debate over its renewal.

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