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Ray, Scott urge passage of trade pacts

from the News Service of Florida

Florida officials say the three trade deals currently awaiting passage by Congress could mean thousands of jobs for Florida over the next several years, and several major industries in the state are looking forward to their approval.

Gov. Rick Scott said during an Internet radio interview Monday morning that the passage of the trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea would create many jobs here, particularly in the pacts with the two countries in the Americas.

State Rep. Lake Ray, a Jacksonville Republican who represents District 17, traveled to Washington last week to push for the trade deals.

“These agreements mean real jobs for real Floridians today and tomorrow, not in some distant future,” said Ray, who sponsored a House Memorial earlier this year urging Congress to pass the free trade deals.

“Conservative estimates indicate we can create thousands of good-paying export jobs by passing these agreements. That’s a big win for Florida,” Ray said.

Scott said Monday on the Bob Harden Show that the deals mean additional employment.

“It’s a lot of jobs for Florida because, one, Colombia and Panama are both big trading partners,” Scott said. “We’re paying a lot of tariffs ordinarily we wouldn’t have to pay.”

The long-awaited trade deals — Scott also slammed the Obama administration Monday for taking too long to send the proposals to Congress — were originally negotiated by the Bush administration but were held up by wrangling over aid for workers who have lost jobs because of outsourcing and by concerns by organized labor about anti-union violence in Colombia.

The deals have been widely touted as a benefit for the American economy, with prospects for boosting U.S. exports by $13 billion and creating as many as a quarter of a million jobs nationally.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan told his local newspaper, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, that Port Manatee could be a big winner — possibly adding as many as 25,000 jobs because of increased shipping.

“Florida could benefit as much or more than any other state,” the Longboat Key Republican told the Herald-Tribune. He said the trade deals could be passed as early as Wednesday.

Several members of Florida’s congressional delegation urged the Congress to quickly take it up and approve it. Republicans also frequently took the opportunity to criticize the White House for not pushing harder.

“Our competitors, like China are not wasting time as they continue to expand their markets and invest in Latin America,” U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, said last week. “It was about time the President sent these common-sense deals to Congress. They deserve swift passage in Congress, with bipartisan support.”

Several Florida industries have said in recent weeks that they are in support of the trade deals, from flower importers who say they’ll see big savings by not having to pay tariffs on Colombian plants, to citrus growers and cattle ranchers who expect to see increased sales to South Korean consumers.

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