President Signs FTA Deals into Law

October 24, 2011

On Oct. 21, President Barack Obama signed free-trade deals between the U.S. and South Korea, Colombia and Panama. The deals were first negotiated during the George W. Bush administration and revised by the Obama administration. The agreements are expected to boost U.S. exports by around $13 billion annually, which the administration estimates will create or maintain about 70,000 jobs.

At the same time, the president signed legislation renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that helps workers who have been hurt by increased global competition. He also signed legislation to renew trade preference programs that sustain the United States’ commitment to trade and economic development that lifts up some of the world’s poorest people.

The signing culminated a burst of bipartisanship, as congressional Republicans supplied the majority of the votes earlier in the month to get the long-stalled agreements to the president. Many Democrats had been far more skeptical of the trade pacts. In order to get more Democrats on board with the three deals: South Korea agreed to new terms that would give U.S. exporters more access to their auto and beef markets; Columbia agreed to work to satisfy complaints about its labor environment and Panama agreed to new financial regulations and transparency.

U.S. officials have said the deals—the biggest since the U.S., Canadian and Mexican North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993—will reduce prices for American consumers and increase foreign sales of U.S. goods and services, providing a much-needed jolt to the sluggish U.S. economy. These agreements make it easier and more cost-effective to sell Made-in-the-USA products to consumers in each of these countries. In turn, increased exports of U.S. goods and services will support more and better jobs for farmers, ranchers, manufacturers, service providers, workers, and businesses all across the U.S. Additionally, all three agreements have groundbreaking protections for labor rights, the environment, and intellectual property, so American workers and businesses will be able to compete on a level playing field.

President Obama also signed legislation that strengthens and streamlines TAA, and renews key preference programs—the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and the Andean Trade Preference Act (ATPA). Both TAA and the preference programs are key elements of President Obama’s balanced approach to trade. TAA helps those workers whose jobs are displaced by trade by providing job re-training programs, lower health insurance premiums, and assistance that keeps families on their feet. And GSP and ATPA uphold his commitment to support trade and economic growth that lifts up some of the world’s poorest people while helping American businesses get inputs they need and American consumers.