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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida lawmakers mostly praise passage of free trade agreements



The House this evening approved trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. The Senate followed, with Florida's Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio voting in the majority.

Florida Republicans supported them, while Democrats were split. Democrats voting against: Corrine Brown, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch. Those in favor: Kathy Castor and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The sixth Democrat, Rep. Frederica Wilson of Miami, missed the votes because of recent surgery.

Here's what some of the lawmakers had to say:

Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation: "In our Congressional District, Port Everglades leads Florida in export trade estimated at $11 billion a year and is tied to 55,000 jobs. The successful passage of the Free Trade Agreements will allow Port Everglades to further increase trade, adding jobs to South Florida in all industries."

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton: "These proposed pacts will only escalate the global race for cheap labor in nations with poor human rights records. The Colombia deal will increase the availability of cheap labor with historically poor worker protections. Likewise, the proposed agreement with South Korea ensures that the United States would be flooded with products built not in Korean but with cheap Chinese and North Korean labor. The free trade agreement with Panama also adds additional barriers to American companies seeking contracts for projects expanding the Panama Canal. Furthermore, the agreement safeguards Panama's status as a notorious offshore haven for corporations that blatantly dodge U.S. tax laws and deprive our country of the revenue we need to reduce the deficit and strengthen our communities."

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami: “This day has been long in coming,” Congressman Rivera said.  “The approval of the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea will open up new markets for American companies that will help job creators hire new employees and grow their businesses.  Today we not only took a positive step for our economy, we took a positive step for our foreign policy.  By expanding trade avenues with friends in Latin America and Asia, we sent a message that America stands with its allies."

Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor: “These long-awaited bipartisan agreements will help create thousands of jobs here at home and will have a long-term positive impact on our economy,” he said. “For too long, America has been losing ground to foreign competitors and I am pleased the House acted on these measures, which will open up new markets for American goods and make us more competitive globally.”

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City: "While I am pleased that Congress has taken steps to ensure a more level playing field for American companies in the global marketplace, we must continue fighting to reduce job-crushing regulations and reject crippling tax increases on small businesses job creators here at home."

Sen. Marco Rubio: It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been talking about it for many years.  We’ve been talking about it since day one here in my service in the United States Senate. And I think the first question people have is: “what took you guys so long?” And that is the same question I have. But we’re glad it passed because it has huge positive benefits for Florida, especially the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. They will create thousands of jobs in Florida. These are good free trade agreements that are also fair to the American worker. They won’t lead to jobs going overseas. On the contrary, it will strengthen our neighbors and their economies, but it will also strengthen ours, especially in places like Florida. So we’re really excited that, finally, the free trade agreements have passed.”

[Last modified: Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:16pm]


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