This week, Congress passed free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama in the largest sweeping trade move since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.
The agreement with South Korea removes duties on about two-thirds of American farm exports, and it phases out tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer exports over the next five years, according to Bloomberg.
The agreement broadens long-dead trade relationships just after Congress voted on measures to punish the Chinese for currency devaluation. Some people say the new measures will also open more trans-Pacific trade possibilities.
The U.S. International Trade Commission says the South Korea deal could boost American exports by as much as $10.9 billion during the first full year it is in effect. The deal with Colombia could lead to about $1.1 billion in export revenues.
Some opponents to the free-trade agreements have noted soaring trade deficits in the U.S. as a result of past trade agreements, and they contend that the new trade deal will have similar effects. Fearing that unions and wage workers in the U.S. will lose out to cheap foreign labor, many Democrats took to the House floor to speak in opposition to the deals, according to The New York Times.
“What I am seeing firsthand is devastation that these free trade agreements can do to our communities,” Representative Mike Michaud, (D-Maine), told the newspaper.