APEC Summit looms as US trade pacts lag

July 25, 2011

The White House could face the embarrassing possibility of President Barack Obama hosting the annual APEC leaders summit in November without managing to win approval of free trade pacts with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Administration officials say there is every reason to expect the long-delayed trade deals can still be passed in September, a good two months before Obama welcomes South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and 19 other APEC leaders to Honolulu.

But as yet, Obama has not even submitted the agreements to Congress, saying he first needs an iron-clad guarantee from Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives that a worker retraining program known as Trade Adjustment Assistance will be passed along with the trade pacts.

Although still immersed in tough negotiations on raising the U.S. debt ceiling, the White House has not given up hope on reaching a procedural deal with Republicans on the free trade agreements and Trade Adjustment Assistance before lawmakers begin their month-long break in August.

But if that agreement still has to be struck in September, that will eat up precious legislative days in the run-up to the Nov 12-13 APEC summit meeting.

In addition, both the House and Senate are scheduled to be off the last week of September and each chamber has other weeks scheduled off in October.

Congress can move quickly when leaders of both parties work together. Whether that will be the case for the trade bills this fall remains to be seen. It was not the case this summer.

 

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