U.S. Senate approves fast-track trade legislation

WASHINGTON, May 23 (PNA/Xinhua) — The U.S. Senate voted Friday to approve the so-called fast-track trade legislation that is key to concluding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, a top priority of President Barack Obama’s second-term agenda.

With a vote of 62 to 37, the Senate agreed to grant Obama the fast-track authority, formally known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended by Congress.

“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 after the vote.

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, where it will face a tough test in the coming weeks. Only a dozen House Democrats have publicly expressed support for the legislation and some conservative Republicans have opposed to give Obama any authority.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on Tuesday strongly urged lawmakers to back the fast-track legislation.

“I just think it would be a big mistake for our country if we were to fail to do this,” Ryan said in an interview with Politico.

“I think this would be a punctuation mark on the declining narrative of America and we should not have our fingerprints, as Republicans, on anything that makes it look like we’re in decline,” he said.

It’s unclear whether the House currently has enough votes to approve the legislation. If eventually passed by the full Congress, the legislation will give U.S. trading partners the confidence they need to put their best offers on the table and help the Obama administration conclude the ongoing TPP free trade talks, which are nearing completion after more than five years of negotiations, according to trade analysts. (PNA/Xinhua)