Earlier this month, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke before Congress about the benefits of free trade agreements. According to Vilsack, the agreements with Korea, Columbia, and Panama, would create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. and would be a major boon to the American agricultural sector. However, some members of the agricultural sector, particularly the Farmers Union, argued that the free trade agreements could hurt struggling farmers and that lowering trade barriers could cost tens of thousands of American jobs, rather than creating them.
Rather than let these agreements collapse after several years in limbo, President Obama and Congressional leaders attempted to compromise, suggesting that the free trade agreements should be linked with Trade Adjustment Assistance programs. TAA, a joint program operated between the Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture, provides reemployment services and benefits to workers who have lost jobs, wages, or hours as a result of free trade programs.
The inclusion of these programs is proving controversial to some Congressional leaders, particularly budget hawks who wonder how they will be funded. Some estimates put the final cost for the TTA with regards to the proposed FTA’s at $1 billion. However, many argue that these costs will be offset by the approximate $8 billion in revenue that the free trade agreements could bring in.
With President Obama announcing that he will not submit the free trade agreements to Congress until the TAA program is reauthorized, it is unclear what the final status of the trade bills will be.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer