Senators wants TAA bill separated from trade agreements

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are among a dozen Senators supporting a plan that would allow the Senate to approve export agreements with Panama, Columbia and South Korea.

The Mississippi senators have signed a letter to President Obama that says the lawmakers will support consideration of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) reauthorization legislation if the President agrees to decouple the TAA measure from the three pending trade agreements. The President has insisted that TAA reforms be considered together with the trade pacts.

“The State of Mississippi produces agriculture products and other goods that could be more widely marketed with these trade agreements. Our ports could also benefit from expanded American trade abroad,” Cochran said. “Separating these export agreements from Trade Adjustment Assistance is one way to ensure they can be successfully moved through Congress.”

The Port of Gulfport and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority last year signed memorandums of understanding with the Panama Canal Authority to cooperatively promote the Mississippi facilities as part of international trade routes. A $5.25-billion expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to open in 2014, allowing larger vessels to pass between the eastern United States and Asia.

The letter indicates that if the three trade agreements are allowed to be considered apart from TAA reauthorization, the 12 Republican senators would support a motion to allow the Senate to debate legislation to renew the TAA program.

TAA benefits are offered to U.S. workers who have been displaced by free trade.

The letter to Obama was authored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a former U.S. trade representative, and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). In addition to Cochran and Wicker, the letter was signed by Senators John Boozman (R-Ark.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Dan Coats (R-Ind.), Susan Collins (R-Me.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

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