A U.S. congressional committee has approved three long-pending free
trade deals that will be sent to the House of Representatives for final
approval next week.
The House and Ways Committee Wednesday acted on the Colombia, Panama and
South Korea agreements, two days after the White House formally sent
them to Congress. Both the House and Senate must approve the deals
before they can become law.
Barack Obama said during a recent television interview that the deals
will help create jobs in the U.S, but he added that they are not enough
by themselves to do what is needed for the economy. Republicans have
said approval of the accords is long overdue, and they questioned why
Obama has not sought enhanced trade authority from Congress so that
additional pacts can be negotiated with other countries.
The agreements initially were signed during the administration George W.
Bush, but the Obama administration worked to address concerns about
Colombia's protections for labor rights, automobile provisions in the
South Korean agreement, and tax and labor laws in Panama.
U.S. officials have said the deals will result in $13 billion in
increased U.S. exports annually. Critics say free trade has contributed
to job losses and factories moving abroad.