The chance for progress on pending free trade agreements has improved considerably with Republicans gains in the House, according to political observers.

One key change in the GOP ascension is the role of Rep. Keith Brady, R-Texas, who will lead the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Brady is extremely pro-trade and all indications are that he wants to move forward with free trade agreements, said Bob Schramm, lobbyist with Schramm, Williams & Associates Inc., Washington, D.C.

In the Senate, free trade advocate Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., has jurisdiction over trade deals in his role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

“I’m optimistic that the Korean, Colombian and the Panama agreements will move forward,” Schramm said.

“The administration is sounding very aggressive in push that trade agreement,” said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm.

The White House is prepared to send the Korean agreement, signed by President Bush, to the Capitol Hill with trade promotion authority, Quarles said.

If approved by Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the U.S. free trade pact with Korea (http://www.fas.usda.gov/info/factsheets/korea.asp) would be the most economically significant agreement for agriculture in 15 years and would benefit exports of many horticulture commodities.

In terms of opportunity for expanded export sales for agriculture, the Korea pact ranks first, Colombia second and Panama third, according to a February 2010 Congressional Research Service report (http://www.nationalaglawcenter.org/assets/crs/R40622.pdf.)

Work on the agreements could be under way by April, Schramm said.

In terms of the broader World Trade Agreement Doha talks, Schramm said there still is no indication President Obama is ready to move forward to make a deal.

However, incoming White House chief of staff Bill Daley worked on the North American Free Trade Agreement and could be helpful in advancing trade issues, Schramm said.