WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will “very soon” send free trade pacts with Colombia, South Korea and Panama to Congress for votes, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley said on Tuesday.
But Daley, who last week said it was urgent Congress pass the measures before its August recess, told reporters it was possible work on the bills could stretch beyond that.
“I don’t know if (they will) be approved by August, but we’re moving forward on them,” he said.
Both Daley and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have said quick approval of the pacts is needed to ensure U.S. exporters do not lose market share to Canada and the European Union, which have pursued their own deals with the countries.
But Obama still has not formally submitted the three agreements to Congress in the face of complaints from Republicans over a White House plan to tie an extension of the Trade Adjustment Assistance program to the South Korea deal.
Trade Adjustment Assistance is a federal retraining program for U.S. workers who have lost their jobs because of foreign competition.
Daley did not directly address that issue, which currently is the big obstacle to approval of the trade deals.
But he said the White House was working on the agreements and would send them to Congress “very soon.”
Republicans broadly support the three accords and are expected to provide the bulk of the votes for the pacts.
However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner want a separate vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance instead of including it in the implementing bill for the South Korea deal.
Last week, Obama called for a compromise on the issue.
Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Will Dunham