U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that he opposed free trade deals with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea but set the stage for moving forward on the stalled accords next week.
“I do not like the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the Korea Free Trade Agreement, or the Panama Free Trade Agreement. I will vote against them,” the top Democrat said in remarks laying out the chamber’s agenda.
“But I have been asked on numerous occasions to move these trade matters to the floor. And that’s what I’ve agreed to do,” he said.
Reid set up a procedural vote at 5:30PM Monday on a broad trade measure, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), to which he aimed to attach an aid package for US workers hurt by overseas competition.
The Republican-led House of Representatives has already approved the GSP, but would have to vote on it again if the Democratic-held Senate, as expected, amends it with so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) before passing it.
Democrats, backed thus far by the White House, have said they will not move forward on the three trade deals unless Congress first approves Trade Adjustment Assistance.
“We’re going to do the trade adjustment assistance, and then, with a few other stops in the middle, we’re going to do the free trade agreements,” Reid predicted.
Congressional aides said they expected the Senate to attach TAA to the broader bill, and ultimately pass the legislation, sending it back to the House, but that it was unclear exactly what the next step would be.
President Barack Obama, who has made passage of the three trade deals a plank in his jobs-creation platform, could submit the accords for congressional approval or wait for House passage of the GSP legislation.