There is a new opportunity that should not be missed for Congress to ratify the free trade agreements (FTAs) with Colombia and Panama.
For several years, these two trade agreements, which must be ratified by the legislature in order to enter into effect, have been waiting their turn.
First, Democratic lawmakers opposed the agreements because of concerns that they might cause the loss of American jobs. Then, the Republicans refused to reinstate the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program-for workers losing their jobs due to international trade-which the Obama administration aptly linked to the project to ratify the trade agreements.
Republicans had allowed the 50-year-old TAA to expire, since they thought it costly and unnecessary. Thanks to pressure from the White House, the Senate recently approved an extension of TAA, although with fewer benefits than the original plan. The House of Representatives now needs to approve this extension as a condition to ratifying the trade agreements.
Once this obstacle is cleared, we think Colombia has made advances in recent times on the issue of workers rights, and these should not remain as an impediment to the agreement.
At the same time, the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement represents more than $1 billion in revenue for our country-especially for California, when it comes to exporting agricultural products.
A free trade agreement between disparate economies usually has unexpected effects on both countries. However, in this FTA, the products to be traded are complementary, so both nations will benefit.
These agreements are part of a limited common agenda between congressional Republicans and the Democratic White House. We hope they are ratified without delay.