The White House announced a free trade deal with Colombia Wednesday, though the timing of the deal's submission to Congress remains in question.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced the deal, following a month of intensive bilateral talks with Colombia. But the key questions of when the deal will be submitted and if Kirk expects enough GOP Hill support to still move forward separately on Colombia, Korea and Panama went unanswered.
"We are now in the position we can have a conversation with Congress on when would be the best time to move forward with Colombia and South Korea," Kirk said. "And very soon we hope to be in that same position with Panama, so that timing will be driven by other conversations with Congress."
Kirk insisted that the White House will submit the trade deals, worth a combined $3 billion for U.S. agriculture, as they are ready.
House and Senate Republicans have demanded all three pending FTAs be sent up together for ratification by July 1, when Canada is expected to implement competing deals. But Kirk said an action plan to boost Colombia's labor protections and laws will take time to implement.
"Some of these actions will be taken before we move the free trade agreement," Kirk said. "Others will be taken before Congress votes on the agreement and there are additional steps that we will work with Colombia on for the balance of the year, to implement before the agreement is fully ratified."
As Colombian President Santos heads to Washington to sign the action plan with President Obama, many in agriculture are praising the deal, though they are also urging full and immediate passage of all three pending trade deals, which were first negotiated by the Bush Administration and signed over four years ago.