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Senator proposes congressional conference on pending FTA bills

A senior U.S. senator on Monday proposed a joint "mock conference" by the Senate and the House of Representatives to help resolve a deadlock over trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

President Barack Obama's push for the ratification of the free trade agreements (FTAs) has been complicated, as he has sought to link it with a controversial labor assistance program.

Members of Congress largely support the FTAs, which are expected to expand exports and create many jobs. But Republicans are staunchly opposed to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, designed to provide job training, health care aid and other benefits to workers displaced by foreign competition.

Last week, both the Senate and the House passed the ball to Obama, approving their own draft implementing bills in so-called mock mark-ups. It is Obama's turn to send a final version of the bill to Congress.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), however, called for congressional leadership to be more assertive.

He suggested that Congress hold a mock conference.

"Reconciling the two bills is the exclusive prerogative of Congress, a prerogative which cannot rightfully be devolved to the Executive branch," he wrote in a letter to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)

He added, "It is my expectation that a mock conference will be scheduled shortly, thereby providing Congress with the opportunity to present to the president a template for drafting a final implementing bill, which has the support of both Houses." (Yonhap News)


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