House Revives Obama's Trade Agenda | us news

House Revives Obama’s Trade Agenda

18 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

House of Representatives approves ‘fast-track’ trade bill on second attempt.

US lawmakers narrowly approved legislation key to securing a hallmark Pacific trade deal on Thursday, partly reversing a defeat less than a week before, in a boost to President Barack Obama’s goal of strengthening US economic ties with Asia. The House of Representatives voted 218 to 208 to give the White House authority to close trade deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which encompasses 40% of the global economy and is close to completion. But the bill, a stripped-down version of legislation which failed at a vote last week, must now go back to the Senate for approval, where a vote is likely next week.

Obama and the Republican leadership in Congress to bypass the objections of many Democrats, the president looks certain to get the ‘fast-track’ authority he seeks as he attempts to make the sweeping trade pact part of his legacy. Democrats last week dramatically rejected a personal appeal from Obama to back legislation central to his hallmark Pacific Rim trade deal by voting down a companion measure to renew an expiring program to help workers hurt by trade. Republicans, weary of the long struggle to pass fast-track, urged the House to vote and move on. “Enacting trade promotion authority is critical for our economy and for our national security, and so we’re going to get it done here today,” Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican, said. Democratic Senator Ron Wyden told Reuters pro-trade Democrats were determined to pass both fast-track and the worker aid program and were working on a plan to achieve that goal.

The House vote is a good sign for the TPP, which would harmonize standards on issues like intellectual property and labor protections and lower trade barriers among the dozen emerging and developed countries. Negotiators are under pressure to finish the pact, which is already more than five years in the making, to allow the TPP to clear Congress before 2016 US presidential election campaigns dominate the agenda.

The two elements were originally part of the same bill. “We are committed to ensuring both … get votes in the House and Senate and are sent to the president for signature,” House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, both Republicans, said in a joint statement before Thursday’s votes, in an attempt to reassure pro-trade Democrats whose votes will be needed. Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton has yet to take a stand on the deal, but the former secretary of state has said Obama should take on board legitimate concerns expressed by fellow Democrats. Obama fast-track authority, claim the United States must stay involved in international trade or emerging economic behemoths like China will craft rules to their benefit.

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