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A free trade deal could also mean job training in the U.S.

World flags wave in Seoul, South Korea

Steve Chiotakis: In Washington later today, the Senate's expected to vote to reauthorize a job training program for American workers out of work because of free trade deals. If the House goes along, today's vote could mean approval of trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

Marketplace Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale is with us live with that story. Morning, John.

John Dimsdale: Hello Steve.

Chiotakis: How big are these trade agreements we're talking about?

Dimsdale: They'll get rid of just about all the tariffs and other trade barriers on exports and imports, to and from those countries. Korea is the big one -- trade with Panama and Colombia is fairly small. Overall, the three agreements are expected to generate about $2 billion in new U.S. exports a year.

But Dan Griswold, an economist with the Cato Institute, says that's relatively modest.

Dan Griswold: That's not going to put a dent in the overall unemployment rate, but it'll create better jobs and more income for American households.

Chiotakis: These trade agreements, John, were first negotiated under the Bush administration. Why has it taken so long to get these through?

Dimsdale: The Democrats worry that opening the borders is going to mean unfair competition from foreign labor. So the White House has tied its support for the trade agreements to the restart of this government worker training program called Trade Adjustment Assistance. It's designed to retrain workers who've lost their jobs due to imports.

Republicans are skeptical the program is effective, but GOP lawmakers are hearing from their business supporters that the trade agreements are worth the price -- so they're likely to go along when the training comes up for a vote today. If these trade deals go through, it means a few baby steps towards the president's overall goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of next year.

Chiotakis: All right, Marketplace's John Dimsdale, live from Washington. John, thanks.

Dimsdale: You're welcome.

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