WASHINGTON – On Sept. 19, the US Senate voted to take the first step necessary toward passing pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, according to Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association manager of legislative affairs.

“This legislation is one of the many requirements President Obama has demanded before he will send the agreements to Congress,” said Kent Bacus, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association manager of legislative affairs.

The Senate is likely to consider many amendments to the Generalized System of Preferences legislation it voted in favor of, Bacus said. He expects the legislation to eventually pass and then go before the US House of Representatives for a vote. Bacus said the president is expected to delay sending the trade agreements to Congress until the House passes the GSP bill. As far as predicting a timeline for the FTAs, Bacus said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “holds the cards.”

“Sen. Reid holds the cards regarding how much time will be spent on the GSP bill,” Bacus said. “He has the ability to tie this up as long as he wants but there’s also a chance we could see the bill move quickly. Much of that will hinge on how many amendments he allows. There is enormous pressure on Sen. Reid to keep this under control.”

Time is of the essence, Bacus said. The Senate still has to approve the continuing resolution before it expires on Sept. 30, in order to avoid a government shutdown. If the Senate doesn’t finish work on GSP this week, the likely timeline to consider the FTAs gets pushed to October when the Senate returns from recess.

On Oct. 13, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak is scheduled to visit the White House for an official state visit, which Bacus said would be the ideal time to finalize the trade agreements.