Politics being what it is, the long saga of what should be slam-dunk decisions on trade agreements with three of America’s trading partners appears to be almost over, years after the pacts were first negotiated.
U.S. Senate leaders said Thursday they reached a deal whereby the three trade agreements will be voted on in their chamber, in exchange for additional aid to workers displaced by foreign competition.
This sounds pretty simple, but not really.
This is, after all, Washington.
The agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama are good for us and for them, and should have been expeditiously passed years ago. But first the unions and some Democrats, hostile to free-trade policy, made many objections, forcing more haggling about the terms.
Then the agreements became a political football because Democrats wanted an extension of more generous aid to displaced workers. That was increased in the 2009 stimulus bill. The program would have continued this year but on less-generous terms; the extra stimulus benefits expired in February.
After what seems an inordinately long time, all appear to have agreed to proceed to a vote on the agreements, and Republicans have agreed to votes on the displaced worker aid.
The irony is that the votes are apt to be lopsidedly in favor on each point.
For Louisiana, whose delegation understands, regardless of party, the need for more trade, the agreements are significant for the future of our port system. “Louisiana is a maritime state, and our businesses and farmers stand to gain tremendously from these agreements,” U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, commented.
And for President Barack Obama, the transition from trade-skeptic candidate to responsible president on this issue is now almost complete.