Medical Device industry officials urged Congress to pass a bill that is stalled on Capitol Hill, which they say will benefit the U.S. med tech industry.
But U.S. free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama won’t get a vote until Congress meets a White House demand to renew the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, which re-trains U.S. workers who get displaced when companies ship overseas.
TAA benefits expired in February, but the GOP-led House rejected a renewal bid, citing budgetary concerns.
At a Senate hearing on the bill Thursday, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) argued that the aid program is too expensive to gain approval and the White House’s ultimatum puts the trade agreements at risk.
Hatch is the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
Renewing TAA at 2009 levels would cost about $7.2 billion over 10 years.
"They want $7.2 billion at a time when this country is basically broke,” Hatch said. “Why hold up three agreements that are beneficial to the American worker?”
AdvaMed officials said they remain hopeful that the measure will pass.
"Korea is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for medical technology. U.S. manufacturers exported over $875 million worth of medical technology products to Korea in 2010," AdvaMed president & CEO Stephen Ubl said in a statement.
“AdvaMed strongly supports adoption and implementation of the U.S.-Korea FTA as quickly as possible,” said Ubl.
The U.S. used to be Korea’s biggest trading partner, but has fallen behind China, Japan, and the European Union since 2003, according to a White House fact sheet.