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Camp says Canada-Colombia free trade puts US at disadvantage

Bloomberg, USA

Camp Says Canada-Colombia Free Trade Puts U.S. at Disadvantage

By Eric Martin

15 August 2011

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp said a free-trade accord between Canada and Colombia that takes effect today puts the U.S. at a disadvantage and underscores the need to pass the nation’s own stalled agreements.

“I urgently call on the president to send the job-creating trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea to Congress without further delay,” Camp, a Michigan Republican, said today in a statement.

The U.S. and Canada are vying for sales in Colombia, South America’s fourth-largest economy after Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina. Colombia’s economy will expand 5 percent this year, based on the median forecast of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

U.S. wheat growers may lose $100 million in sales annually should the pending Colombia agreement fail to win approval, according to estimates from U.S. Wheat Associates, the export- market development organization for wheat producers.

U.S. Senate leaders ended an impasse two weeks ago over the stalled free-trade accords with the three nations. They agreed to vote after this month’s recess on benefits for workers who lose their jobs because of overseas competition, and then take up the three pending trade deals.

President Barack Obama wants the agreements and worker aid passed “as soon as possible, so that American businesses and workers can get the jobs, market access, and more level playing fields we fought for in these deals,” Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, said last week.

Worker Aid Deal

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have pressed lawmakers on the trade agreements, citing concern companies will fall behind global competitors.

A South Korean free-trade agreement with the European Union has been in place since July 1, putting U.S. producers of autos, pharmaceuticals and scientific equipment at a disadvantage in the Asian economy.

The three U.S. agreements may increase exports by $12 billion a year and boost the struggling U.S. economy, supporters say. After Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling this month, the White House urged action on the trade deals as a means to spur hiring in the U.S. amid 9.1 percent unemployment in July.