The Obama administration will postpone the final passage of the U.S.-Colombian free trade agreement unless an assistance program for U.S. workers is renewed.
Official aides said that they were willing to delay free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, unless the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program is renewed. The Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, or TAA, provides assistance for workers who lose their jobs as a result of foreign competition.
Gene Sperling, director of the National Economics Council, said that “We will not submit the FTAs without an agreement on an enhanced TAA. But we also believe we can work on congressional leadership to get that accomplished.”
The expansion of the 50-year-old TAA program was extended by Obama two years ago as part of a stimulus package before the expansion expired in February. In 2010 the TAA helped 200,000 US workers with retraining and income support.
The TAA is generally supported by Republicans although some opposition lawmakers are concerned about the cost of the program, for which administration officials do not have an estimate.
Informal talks on the three FTAs, the first step towards the final ratification process, began earlier this month.