Congress OKs three pacts on free trade

Deals with S. Korea, Colombia, Panama

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The trade agreements got strong support from almost all of the leading business lobbies.

“Our markets are overwhelmingly open to countries all around the world,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat. “Again and again, we find that our trading partners have significant barriers and are remarkably closed to us.”

Opponents also continued to raise concerns about Colombia’s labor environment, although many Democrats are satisfied with steps the country has taken to improve those conditions.

Some Democrats raised doubts about whether South Korea would open its market to the U.S. auto industry. Mr. DeFazio said Koreans who own American cars have not received parking spaces at work and have been targeted for tax audits.

“Kiss the remainder of the auto industry and auto parts goodbye with this agreement,” he said.

But Mr. Kelly reminded lawmakers that more than 60 percent of Korean cars sold here are made by Americans.

Rep. Michael H. Michaud, Maine Democrat, raised concerns about all three deals. He compared Panama’s gross domestic product to that of the city of Portland in his home state.

“Why are we even considering these trade agreements?” he asked.

“The working people and the middle class don’t want the trade agreements, not with Panama, not with Korea, and not with Colombia. It’s unjust, these agreements, to the American people.”

Nevertheless, these concerns did not slow bipartisan support for the agreements.

“All of us want to create jobs,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat. “If anyone living in this town doesn’t know that, he’s been living under a rock.”

“If we compete, we win,” added Rep. David Dreier, California Republican. “It will send a signal to the rest of the world that the United States of America is back open for business.”

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