The excitement was growing that the three long awaiting Free Trade Agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea were making some headway. But, earlier this week, they hit a stumbling block with the recently expired Trade Adjustment Assistance. Doug Wolf, President of the National Pork Producers Council:
"I’ve been on the hill the last two days making some rounds and some visits and the hurdle there is trade adjustment assistance. It is something that has been there, it’s a political move to get that refunded in a time of tight budgetary means. But I think that the way it talked on the hill that they’re going to go ahead and get that taken care of and we will get our trade agreements, we’re hoping anyway, we’ll get them passed by fall."
Wolf says that diligent work in Washington seems to have worked, and the hurdle should be cleared soon:
"The trade adjustment assistance is a program that has been, in fact I guess for a number of years, what it is, it helps re-train workers in the event that they lose a job to a foreign country due to a trade agreement. And this is a program that ran out of funding and with the new trade agreements coming available, it is just another avenue that if they want to get the trade agreements they wanted to make sure that the funding was there so that if there are some jobs lost there would be some training money available for federal assistance."
The recent argument for funding offset for Trade Adjustment Assistance seems converse to the argument for getting the FTAs passed in the first place, which is economic stimulus and jobs:
"The program has been there, it is what it is. But yesterday we had a hearing on the hill on the free trade agreements and they asked us about our concern – it was an agricultural group. And we all felt so positive that there would be enough jobs created that we’re not even concerned about a need for the thing. But some of the re-training may be necessary to train them from one position to another, but we feel there will be enough new jobs created that we’ll have additional jobs available."
Wolf says that in spite of the recent stumbling block, there is still optimism that the FTAs will be presented for a vote before the fall recess:
"Well, they’re saying that it is just being brought up now… of course the negotiations have to go on. I talked to both the House and Senate side and they won’t come out really and say so but they’re hoping to have them ready by sometime in July for a vote. We’re hoping for before the Fall recess in August but whether we get that far that fast, I’m not certain but we’ve sure got everybody optimistic."
President of the National Pork Producers Council, Doug Wolf