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White House Holds Up Trade Agreements Over Expansion of Trade Adjustment Assistance Program

The Obama Administration is making a last-ditch attempt to put a cherry on top of their crappy free trade sundae.

The Seattle Times reports that the White House is now refusing to submit the three approved FTAs — with South Korea, Colombia and Panama — unless the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA) is expanded.

“We will not submit the FTAs without an agreement on an enhanced TAA,” said Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council. “But we also believe we can work on congressional leadership to get that accomplished.”

According to Wikipedia, the TAA “provides a variety of reemployment services and benefits to workers who have lost their jobs or suffered a reduction of hours and wages as a result of increased imports or shifts in production outside the United States” and was established in 1962 under the Trade Expansion Act.

The program expired in February following a two-year Obama extension and though “Republicans have typically been supportive,” the budget battle is discoloring the discussion of whether or not to pay for the TAA.

Sources close to the situation suggest there will be a debate over how long to extend the program, with labor supporters pushing for five years and opponents jockeying for another two year extension. To a degree, officials on both sides of the aisle detest debating TAA extensions because the program acts as an admission that there has been job loss resulting from free trade agreements.

For the time being, labor leaders are happy to have staved off the submission of the new FTAs, which many view as job-crushers, for another day.


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