Breakthrough on trade could clear way for vote

By JULIE PACE | June 28, 2011 | 11:45 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have broken a stalemate that could clear the way for Congress for votes on three key free trade agreements.

Congressional officials and business representatives briefed on the plan say Republican and Democratic lawmakers have agreed to include a renewal of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program as part of legislation on a coveted trade deal with South Korea. The assistance goes to retrain American workers who lose their jobs because of foreign competition.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made.

The White House had threatened to hold up passage of the South Korea deal, along with trade agreements with Colombia and Panama, unless the retraining assistance was renewed.