A U.S. congressional committee has approved three long-pending free trade deals that will be sent to the House of Representatives for final approval next week.
The House and Ways Committee Wednesday acted on the Colombia, Panama and South Korea agreements, two days after the White House formally sent them to Congress. Both the House and Senate must approve the deals before they can become law.
President Barack Obama said during a recent television interview that the deals will help create jobs in the U.S, but he added that they are not enough by themselves to do what is needed for the economy. Republicans have said approval of the accords is long overdue, and they questioned why Obama has not sought enhanced trade authority from Congress so that additional pacts can be negotiated with other countries.
The agreements initially were signed during the administration George W. Bush, but the Obama administration worked to address concerns about Colombia's protections for labor rights, automobile provisions in the South Korean agreement, and tax and labor laws in Panama.
U.S. officials have said the deals will result in $13 billion in increased U.S. exports annually. Critics say free trade has contributed to job losses and factories moving abroad.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.