By Anastasia Degtyarenko
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) slammed President Obama on Thursday for delaying the passage of critical pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia.
During an address at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., the senior Utah Republican accused the White House of playing games with the trio of FTA’s.
“They talk…a big game about free trade… but so far all that they have given us is talk,” he said.
Hatch said that despite the fact that the pending FTA’s have been “ready to roll” for a few years, they have been stonewalled due to the current administration’s insistence that the deal with South Korea include a Trade Adjustment Assistance provision aimed at helping train displaced workers in the U.S..
“The White House has delayed these pro-growth trade agreements so that they could secure more government spending through TAA,” Hatch said. “As a matter of both substance and process, TAA should not be a part of these agreements. On the substance, TAA is a dubious and costly set of programs at best. Its record of success remains a mystery. I know that liberal stakeholders important to the president’s reelection prospects want this program, but I have yet to see that American taxpayers are getting anything for their money.”
Democrats have argued that the TAA would have no bearing on the Korea deal, given that NAFTA includes such a provision.
According to Hatch, though the President “confidently knows” that the FTA’s will boost economic growth and create more jobs, he hasn’t yet delivered them to Congress for a final vote. “Are we dealing with an administration that is actually hostile or indifferent to these agreements, and therefore cavalierly recommends a process that might sink them? Or are we dealing with a gross failure of leadership? I suspect that the answer is somewhere in between.”
Hatch also slammed Obama for accusing the GOP of blocking progress on a deal to reduce the deficit and raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
“Facing trillions of dollars in debt, his recommendation was to raise a few billion dollars in taxes on oil companies and the use of corporate jets,” Hatch said. “In the spirit of Wimbledon, Americans watching this press conference channeled their inner John McEnroe and screamed, you can’t be serious!”