The Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) issued its support this week of the passage of pending free-trade agreements (FTA) with South Korea, Panama and Colombia by two Congressional committees. SOCMA is the US-based trade association representing custom and batch manufacturers, including contract manufacturers of fine chemicals, pharmaceutical intermediates, and active pharmaceutical ingredients.
SOCMA reported that all three trade agreements were backed by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees. The Senate panel approved the Korea trade pact with an extension of expanded Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and the House approved a similar agreement without the language. TAA, which provides training to assist unemployed workers in retooling and find new job opportunities, was a subject of debate in the negotiations, according to a July 11, 2011, SOCMA press release.
The Senate Finance Committee approved its recommendations for passage of the three free-trade pacts as part of mock markup. Committee mock markups are the standard way Congress weighs in on the administration's FTAs negotiated under fast-track authority, which prohibits amendments to the final implementing bills. Following administration review of any amendments that the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees approve on the draft implementing bills, final versions of the implementing bills will be submitted to Congress for an up-or-down vote, according to a July 7, 2011, US Senate Finance Committee press release. The House Ways and Means Committee also reported on its support for the three FTAs, according to a July 7, 2011, press release.
“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, in the SOCMA press release.
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 Colombia 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,” he said.
Although supportive of the Congressional committees' advocacy for the FTAs, Sloan cautioned against further Congressional delay in approving these pacts and other such agreements. “Our country’s failure to approve these agreements is hurting us in other ways,” said Sloan in the press statement. “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 US’s ability to gain advantage within the giant growing markets in Asia.”
The TPP Agreement is an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement currently being negotiated among the United States and eight other partners. The United States’ TPP negotiating partners are Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.