Paulsen said the trade deals will most help the state’s manufacturing sector, which he said makes up 90 percent of the 60,000 Minnesota jobs dependent on global trading markets.
“By passing these free trade agreements, we will reduce the barriers in these three countries, allowing 60,000 Minnesotans, and now others, the opportunity to find new sales and new customers for their products, giving the companies who employ them the opportunity to expand and start hiring again,” said Paulsen, who is the co-chair of the Congressional U.S.-Korea Free Trade Working Group.
The trade agreements, originally negotiated by the George W. Bush administration, with some tweaking from Obama, will help the United States stay competitive with Europe, Paulsen said, especially considering the European Union’s free trade agreement with South Korea that took effect over the summer.
“Today is a good day,” he said. “This is our opportunity to get back on a solid footing.”
Republicans have strongly supported the trade bills and have long called for Obama to bring them to Congress for approval. He did so only after getting Republicans to agree to vote on a program called Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides job training and other benefits for Americans who lose their jobs to foreign workers.
The U.S. Trade Office has also worked to beat back opposition from labor groups and some Democrats on the grounds that the trade agreements will lead to fewer American jobs.
Other Democrats, among them Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, have concerns over human rights issues in Colombia, saying they may oppose that trade deal until the country institutes improved labor standards.
“This administration made sure that the trade deals … were balanced and fair and would both increase our trade opportunities, but do it in a way that protected American workers,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. “There has been an issue of working with Congress, which we have done, to make sure that the whole process here takes place in a way that ensures that all four measures — the three free trade agreements and the TAA — are acted on. And we’re confident that that will happen.”