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White House unsure about ratification of Korea FTA this summer

Stepping back from a confident tone a week earlier, a top White House official said Tuesday that it might not be possible to win congressional approval for pending trade pacts this summer.

President Barack Obama's chief of staff, Bill Daley, said the administration remains committed to a plan to send free trade agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress for votes "very soon."

Congress is due to enter recess on Aug. 6. The Obama administration, eager to expand exports and create jobs, has informally set the date as the deadline for passing the long-overdue FTA bills.

But Obama has been preoccupied with drawn-out debt ceiling talks with congressional Republicans.

"I don't know if (they will) be approved by August, but we're moving forward on them," Daley told reporters.

Obama is seeking to iron out differences over his push to renew Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) designed to help workers adversely affected by trade.

He has included the TAA issue into the implementing bill on the FTA with South Korea. Republicans, who view the TAA as waste of taxpayers' money, call for a different approach.

Daley did not directly address the controversial issue.

Daley's comments Tuesday mark a difference from his confidence at the U.S.-Korea Business Council here last week.

"We can no longer wait," he said at that time. "If there is no agreement on an alternative approach in the very near future, we will move forward to seek passage of the FTA with TAA." (Yonhap News)



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