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SOCMA Urges Congress to Reach a Bipartisan Conclusion on Free Trade Deals

Article-SOCMA Urges Congress to Reach a Bipartisan Conclusion on Free Trade Deals

The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) commended two key House and Senate committees for passing the pending free trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Panama and Columbia, a key SOCMA legislative priority.

All three agreements were backed by the powerful House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees last Thursday following years of advocacy by SOCMA and its member companies. The Senate panel approved the Korea trade pact with an extension of expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), while the House approved a similar agreement without the language. TAA, which provides training to assist unemployed workers in retooling and find new job opportunities, remains a sticking point in negotiations.

“We appreciate the support of both committees in moving these deals forward and urge Congress to come to a bicameral, bipartisan conclusion to include trade adjustment assistance (TAA) with these three pending agreements,” said SOCMA president and CEO Lawrence D. Sloan.

Negotiated in 2007, each one of these agreements has been held up for different reasons, further exacerbating the fragile state of the U.S. economy. In a letter earlier this month to Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sloan outlined the benefits of approving the FTAs to chemical manufacturers, saying that the Columbia deal, in particular, would boost the chemical industry.

“The benefits to chemical manufacturers as a result of approving FTAs are real,” Sloan said. “For example, the chemical industry paid $480 million in duties to Colombia between 2008 and 2010, the most of any other exporting sector. The FTA with Colombia would eliminate 80% of these duties once the agreement becomes effective and would eliminate the rest within 10 years. Clearly, this pending FTA will bring immediate relief to chemical manufacturing companies, allowing them to expand sales to this important market.”

However, Sloan also emphasized how a delay in approving these agreements hurts the industry.

“Our inability to ratify trade agreements with potential new partners only further puts U.S. manufacturing behind its global competitors eager to secure market share at our expense,” Sloan wrote. “Each day Congress prolongs a vote on these agreements, the more we cede the advantage to foreign manufacturers and further exacerbate the fragile state of the U.S. economy, at a time when we can least afford it.

“Our country’s failure to approve these agreements is hurting us in other ways. There is a growing belief among key trading partners that if America is unable to pass its three trade agreements, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations this year will be placed in doubt, which will further diminish the U.S.’s ability to gain advantage within the giant growing markets in Asia.

“Congress needs to act now to avoid further unnecessary delay of America’s trade agenda. The chemical industry, like many industries, stands to gain significantly as a result of these agreements.”

For more information, visit www.socma.com.

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