October 13, 2011 10:00 AM, EDT

Congress Approves Three Free-Trade Deals

Congress approved the biggest free-trade agreements since 1994, approving deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama late Wednesday that are expected to be signed by President Obama, Bloomberg reported.

The approvals bring to an end to years of stalemate and offer what supporters said was the biggest opportunity for exporters in decades, Bloomberg said.

Obama spent two years seeking to broaden Democratic support for pacts revised from initial agreements reached by President George W. Bush.

 “I’ve fought to make sure that these trade agreements . . . deliver the best possible deal for our country,” Obama said in a statement. “American automakers, farmers, ranchers and manufacturers, including many small businesses, will be able to compete and win in new markets.”

The South Korea deal, the biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, removes duties on almost two-thirds of U.S. farm exports and phases out tariffs on more than 95% of industrial and consumer exports within five years, Bloomberg reported.

South Koreas President Lee Myung-bak is in Washington and will be the guest of honor at a White House state dinner at Thursday night, news reports said.