On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the largest trade treaty in more than two decades, by a 60 to 38 vote, backing U.S. President’s last moment efforts to strengthen the nation’s economic ties with states in the Pacific.
Wednesday’s vote also grants Obama fast track authority to negotiate terms of international trade deals, which Congress can only approve or disapprove but cannot alter. Currently the bill awaits presidential signature.
The 12-country TPP which is very similar to 1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico is the largest free trade agreement in two decades. Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, New Zeeland and Japan are some of the states that signed the agreement.
But those states still need to find solutions to some spiky issues before completing the TPP such as monopolies of big pharma companies and legal hurdles related to state corporations.
The TPP is expected to have a huge impact not only on U.S. economy but on the world’s economy as well since it would cover 40 percent of global economy and be worth about $300 billion every year.
The Asia trade deal vote ends more than six weeks of congressional debates and may be followed by a trade deal with the E.U. But labor groups that are against fast track authority announced that they would continue the fight.
“We will vigorously oppose TPP if it continues on its current course,”
Richard Trumka, the head of AFL-CIO, recently told U.S. legislators.
Labor groups are very concerned especially about the fast track authority. This new executive power will last up to six years and will apply to any trade agreement negotiated by either President Obama or his successor. Congress will be able to only set goals to trade deals and vote for or against them, but the U.S. President will be the one who negotiates them.
On Wednesday, Senate members of the Congress sent to the House a measure that will aid workers who are displaced due to trade deals. The bill was initially rejected by the Democrats in the House chamber because they planned to thus stymie fast-track legislation.
If the worker aid legislation is approved Thursday it should reach the President’s office for his approval before regulators go on a week-long vacancy.
Asia trade deal divided Congress and stirred internal fights within the Democratic party, as well. Conservatives declined to support the trade agenda, while other lawmakers that had opposed fast-track were concerned about a backlash from labor unions warning of job cuts.
Image Source: Universal Journal Review