|Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R.-Pa.)|
The freshman senator from Pennsylvania applauded the Senate’s passage of three long-delayed free trade agreements (FTAs) with Panama, Colombia and South Korea on Oct. 12 at Capitol Hill.
“Today is a fine example of how the President and Congress can advance policies in a bipartisan manner that will help turn our economy around,” said Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R.-Pa.) after the Senate ended a five-year holding pattern created by competing economic interests.
The Panama FTA passed 77 to 22, the Colombia FTA 66 to 33, and the South Korea FTA 83 to 15. The House passed all the treaties on Oct. 11. Traditionally, trade treaties, following the constitutional process, have been negotiated by the President and ratified by the Senate with a two-thirds majority.
The new process, called fast-track authority, prevents filibusters that have delayed votes, and amendments that have forced the President to renegotiate the treaty with the other country. With fast-track authority, each chamber gets an up or down vote by a simple majority.
President Barack H. Obama, Jr. submitted each of the three FTAs to Capitol Hill on Oct. 3.
“As President Obama has noted, these free trade agreements will open up international markets to U.S. products, make American companies more competitive, and help our businesses create new jobs,” Toomey said.
“Many Pennsylvania employers and workers will benefit from the passage of job-creating agreements, especially in the state’s vital manufacturing and agriculture industries. Expanding the markets for Pennsylvania’s products will boost our economy and put people back to work,” he said.
Keystone businesses expressed their support for the new opportunities that will be created by the trade agreements after they are signed by the President.
Many Pennsylvania companies supported the passage of these important trade agreements:
Jim Goodell, vice president and general manager of the Mack Trucks Macungie plant, Lehigh County, said, “Passage of the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama will give Mack Trucks a chance to again compete fairly on a level playing field in those long-standing markets.”
“Increasing our market share and exports would mean securing or even adding jobs at our Macungie Mack Truck assembly facility,” he said.
Will Knecht, president of Wendell August Forge in Mercer County, said, “We need more free trade agreements in place to provide more manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania. As more jobs are created via these free trade agreements, families have more disposable income to spend on gifts, on food, on clothes.”
Knecht said, “They have more money to invest and save. We all win as we open up foreign markets, and thus we at Wendell August fully support Senate ratification of the agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama.”
Monte Wiltse, vice president of sales and marketing at Fujirebio Diagnostics in Chester County, said, “Enacting the free trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama will provide the U.S. medical-device industry with a more level playing field with domestic manufacturers in each of these countries.”
David Barensfeld, the CEO of Ellwood Group in Beaver County, said, “The Ellwood Group employs 1,600 people in western Pennsylvania to manufacture specialty steel forgings that we sell as components to heavy equipment manufacturers like General Electric, Caterpillar and others. GE and Caterpillar in turn export their products containing our forgings outside the United States, including to Colombia, Korea and Panama.
“To the best of our knowledge, over half of our company’s products end up outside the United States,” he said.
“A vote in Congress to pass the trade agreements with Colombia, Korea and Panama is a strong vote for manufacturing jobs in western PA,” he said.
Toomey said he was glad Congress and the President were able to accomplish positive steps for the economy together.
“Rather than wasting more time on another stimulus bill that won’t create jobs,” he said, “I am pleased that both parties worked together today to pass these three job-creating free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.”