(MENAFN - The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) The Republican-led U.S. Senate handed President Barack Obama a major victory Friday night when it passed the Trade Promotion Authority bill. The lawmakers voted 62-37 in favor of the so-called "fast-track" trade bill. The president's trade agenda faced opposition from some members of his Democratic Party, who tried to block its passage.
The Trade Authority bill is expected to face an even rockier road to passage in the House of Representatives, where it will likely need the support of most of the Republican majority to pass. The House is not expected to act on the trade bill this month, since members have already left town for the Memorial Day holiday recess.
Fast track to pending trade deals?
The fast-track negotiating authority would allow the president to propose trade agreements that Congress can either reject or ratify, but not change.
Obama has made trade authority a focal point of his remaining time in office, saying it is crucial to advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership of nations, or TPP. The TPP would create the world's largest free trade zone, spanning half the globe.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Republican, also gave an impassioned plea for the Senate to pass the trade authority bill. Corker said the bill would facilitate passage of the TPP, which he says would help people in his state of Tennessee and across the country to export more goods, and would also help people in the Asia-Pacific region.
"But importantly, it will draw those countries more closely to the United States, and it will act as a buffer against the dominance that is taking place now with China" he said.
China worried about exclusion
Analysts say the Chinese government is concerned that this enormous "anyone but China" trade club could threaten China's economy.
In the United States, fast-track authority and planned free trade pacts with Pacific Rim nations and the European Union are opposed by a number of Democrats and some Republicans.
Opponents fear the huge free trade zones will benefit multinational corporations at the expense of average citizens, as Democratic Minority leader Harry Reid suggested. "The trade bill is another example of how we have ignored in this Congress working men and women of this country," he said.
Labor unions and progressive groups fear the trade zones will export American jobs to countries with lower wages and poorer safety conditions for workers.
The Trade Authority bill is expected to face an even rockier road to passage in the House of Representatives, where it will likely need the support of most of the Republican majority to pass.
The House is not expected to act on the trade bill this month, since members have already left town for a holiday recess.
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