With the Bush administration pushing Congress hard to pass three pending free trade agreements before its term is up in January 2009, some Georgia legislators are undecided on the free trade issue.

On the heels of passing a free trade agreement with Peru with strong bipartisan support, administration officials are on a blitz to drum up support for agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a delegation of House Democrats to Colombia Jan. 24-25 to see economic conditions firsthand; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez was at an expo in Atlanta Jan. 24 explaining the importance of trade to the poultry industry and U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Both Georgia senators and 10 of 13 House representatives approved the U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act, the most recent free trade agreement to come before Congress, but it’s unclear how they will vote on future agreements.

The U.S.-Peru Act passed the House of Representatives 285-132 last November and the Senate in December 77-18.

The agreement will immediately eliminate tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. goods entering Peru and remove remaining duties over the next 10 years, according to a White House fact sheet.

Though the terms of the three pending agreements are similar to those of the Peru pact, country-specific issues and individual opinions would affect Georgia congressmen’s votes on future trade agreements.

The only unqualified statement of support for the practice of free trade in response to GlobalAtlanta’s requests for information came from Rep. Tom Price.

“Americans are competing in an increasingly interconnected global economy,” the Roswell congressman said. “Shutting out the global economy would only leave American businesses behind.”

John Kennedy, spokesperson for Republican Rep. Paul Broun, said that though the Athens congressman has disapproved of past free trade agreements, he voted in favor of the Peru deal to level the playing field for U.S. exporters, as Peruvian products already have duty-free access to American markets under the 1991 Andean Trade Preference Act.

However, Doug Moore, press secretary for Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall, said that the congressman did not feel that the deal was a good investment for his district, which consists of middle Georgia from Colquitt County in the south to part of Newton County in the north, including Macon, a regional business center.

Republican Rep. Jack Kingston cited past free trade agreements as evidence that such deals create export opportunities for Georgians. “If the Singapore free trade agreement, which nearly tripled our exports to that nation in the first three years alone is any indicator, knocking down trade barriers to Peru could easily double our exports,” the Savannah congressman said.

Rep. David Scott, a Democrat from District 13, said he voted against the agreement because it did not adopt enough protective measures for workers suggested by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, a Democrat from New York’s 15th District.

“The final product presented to Congress by the administration did not go far enough in protecting the rights of laborers in Peru to work under safe conditions for fair wages, and it did not go far enough in protecting American jobs from being shipped overseas,” Mr. Scott said.

State Department official Charles Shapiro told GlobalAtlanta in a previous interview that the Peru free trade agreement would be easier to pass than any of the remaining three. No date has been set for a Congressional vote on any of the pending trade agreements.

The full list of Georgia representatives’ votes on H.R. 3688 (U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement Implementation Act):

GA1 – Jack Kingston (R) – Y

GA2 – Sanford Bishop (D) – Y

GA3 – Lynn Westmoreland (R) – Y

GA4 – Hank Johnson (D) – N

GA5 – John Lewis (D) – Y

GA6 – Tom Price (R) – Y

GA7 – John Linder (R) – Y

GA8 – Jim Marshall (D) – N

GA9 – Nathan Deal (R) – Y

GA10 – Paul Broun (R) – Y

GA11 – John Gingrey (R) – Y

GA12 – John Barrow (D) – Y

GA13 – David Scott (D) – N

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...