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Trade pact with S. Korea soon to be submitted to Congress: Kirk

All Headlines 01:01 June 21, 2011

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, June 20 (Yonhap) -- The top United States trade official said Monday that his government will "fairly soon" send free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia to Congress, reiterating that President Barack Obama is committed to passing them this year.

"Now as U.S. trade representative, my job is to open up markets and increase opportunities for American producers to sell more of what we make, grow, and provide here in the U.S.A. to the 95 percent of consumers who live beyond our borders," Ron Kirk said at the Conference of Mayors, held in Baltimore.

He emphasized the benefits expected from tearing down trade barriers with the three partners.

"Combined, Korea, Panama and Colombia can help us add over 70,000 jobs at a time we need them and add almost $12 billion to our GDP. So it's critically important that we get these passed," he said. "Combined, the Korea free trade agreement alone is more economically impactful than the last nine free trade agreements that we did."

Kirk added that the government remains firm on a plan to extend Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), designed to provide retraining and health care benefits for workers who have lost jobs due to import competition, despite opposition from some members of Congress.

"We have renegotiated and are ready to submit to Congress fairly soon trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia," he said without giving a specific time frame.

Earlier, Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for the USTR, said her agency is working with Congress on the ratification process.

"We are working daily with our partners in Congress toward the next step in the process, which would be a mock markup of the Korea agreement as well as the other pending deals," she told Yonhap News Agency. "We meet with our Korean counterparts regularly to update them on developments here in Washington."

lcd@yna.co.kr
leechidong@gmail.com
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