Washington: In a major victory for President Barack Obama, the US Senate overcame bitter divisions and approved a bill that gives him the authority to swiftly negotiate and forge international trade pacts.
A coalition of 48 Senate Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority last night, sending the legislation to a difficult fight in the House of Representatives, where it faces more entrenched opposition from Democrats.
The passage of the bill from the Senate by 62 to 37 votes was immediately welcomed by the US President.
“Today's bipartisan Senate vote is an important step toward ensuring the United States can negotiate and enforce strong, high-standards trade agreements,” Obama said in a statement.
“If done right, these agreements are vital to expanding opportunities for the middle class, levelling the playing field for American workers, and establishing rules for the global economy that help our businesses grow and hire by selling goods Made in America to the rest of the world,” Obama said.
This Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation includes strong standards that will advance workers' rights, protect the environment, promote a free and open Internet and it supports new robust measures to address unfair currency practices, he said.
The legislation also includes an important extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) to help all American workers participate in the global economy, Obama said.
Passage of the bill allows the administration to finalise negotiations with 11 other Asian and Pacific nations and bring the trade deal to Congress for a vote, with lawmakers not permitted to make changes.
Trade Promotion Authority bill's passage is a critical step toward enabling US to negotiate modern trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific and Europe that reflect its values, said US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.
This will open up new markets, level the playing field for US businesses and workers and create more high-paying American jobs, she said.
US Trade Representative Michael Froman said the Trade Promotion Authority is a critical tool for advancing trade agreements that support jobs, protect workers and promote core American values.
“The legislation the Senate passed today will update Congress's marching orders to the Administration on trade policy and put in place unprecedented new requirements for transparency and congressional consultation,” he said.