From the main site:WASHINGTON -- Sen. Bob Casey criticized Obama administration trade policy today, saying he is unlikely to support the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea.
The administration is trying to move three stalled free trade agreements through Congress: One it negotiated with South Korea and pacts with Colombia and Panama left over from the second Bush administration. There are indications it is close to a deal with congressional leaders on trade adjustment assistance to workers who lose their jobs as a result of the agreements, which typically come in the manufacturing sector.
That deal is seen as the final hurdle to passage, but Pennsylvania Democrat Mr. Casey joined Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, at a news conference this afternoon to try to put the brakes on the agreements. Mr. Casey and Mr. Brown said the Senate must act first on trade adjustment assistance as a separate bill to any trade agreement.
The two senators are pushing for an extension of five years at about $1 billion a year, which was the rate included in the stimulus bill that has since expired. Mr. Casey said 23,700 people in Pennsylvania had taken advantage of the assistance.
But even if the assistance is extended, Mr. Casey said he has "a lot of questions" about the trade agreements for the administration. In particular, promises of job growth from previous pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement never materialized.
Mr. Casey cited a report by the liberal Economic Policy Institute showing that NAFTA displaced 26,300 jobs in Pennsylvania and rendered a massive trade deficit with Canada and Mexico.
"I've got to be able to go back to the people of Pennsylvania and have answers for all that," Mr. Casey said.
"And if the answers or the rebuttal to that isn't compelling and irrefutable, the people of Pennsylvania are going to be real concerned about the enactment, the implementation of these trade agreements."
Mr. Casey said opposition to new trade agreements crosses party lines in Pennsylvania and though he didn't shut the door on voting for the pending agreements, he came close.
"I think this is a road we shouldn't take," he said.