Thursday, June 25, 2015

U.S. Senate Approves Fast-Track Trade Authority

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U.S. senators voted 60 to 38 on Wednesday to pass (NYT) legislation that grants President Barack Obama trade promotion authority to negotiate free trade agreements. The bill helps clear the way (BBC) for the Obama administration to move forward with negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal with twelve Pacific Rim nations responsible for 40 percent of world trade. The TPP, seen as the centerpiece of Obama's rebalance to Asia, could be the largest free trade agreement in a generation. Japan welcomed (Japan Times) Congress's passing of fast-track authority, while Philippines Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said that the Philippines wants to join (Diplomat) the TPP.
"The administration’s goal is to get the TPP back to Congress for approval before the end of the year and before the 2016 political campaigns heat up. Because of the recent delays in Congress, officials say this is an ambitious target. Meanwhile, environmentalists, labour unions and other special-interest groups are gearing up to fight their corner," writes Shawn Donnan in the Financial Times.

"In lobbying Congress for fast track, President Obama made a persuasive case for the need to reassert U.S. leadership on trade, particularly in Asia, where China has been lining up its own trading networks. Now that pro-trade Republicans and centrist Democrats have prevailed over union-backed liberals and tea party conservatives, it's up to Obama to deliver a Trans-Pacific Partnership that leads the region in a direction that serves all of our interests," writes the Los Angeles Times.
"[China] is far less dangerous internationally than it was under Mao Zedong. Much of that political evolution has occurred because China’s leaders know that the rapid growth undergirding their rule depends on economic interdependence. Over the long run, bringing China into TPP would further the trend, hopefully strengthening those inside China who want to liberalize the economy and make the country a more responsible stakeholder in the world," writes Richard Katz in Foreign Affairs.