U.S. Senate on Wednesday has approved the legislation that will make the largest American trade deal in a long time and will make U.S. ties to the Pacific Rim more stable. The legislation gives President Barack Obama a fast-track power in negotiating trade deals.
With a vote of 60-38, the U.S. Senate has ended the two months long battle in Congress over the legislation, which will move next to the President for signing.
The legislation comes in time for Obama to strengthen the foreign policy towards Asia and make the finishing touches on the 12 nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is the next big trade agreement after the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was a trade liberalization between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The TPP is a trade deal that would cover 40 percent of the world economy with an annual global economic output of $300 billion.
The countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership have been waiting for Congress to approve the fast-track authority, so that Congress would not be able to make changes. After the approval, each country will contribute to the trade deal and resolve issues like monopoly periods for next- generation medicines or control of state-owned corporations. The fast-track authority will allow legislators to negotiate goals of trade and only vote Yes or No on final agreements and will last for six years. It is part of the battle legislators had in Congress of the broader trade legislation which included fast-tracks, as well as aid for workers who have lost their jobs due to a trade deal, trade preferences with Africa bill and a customs enforcement measure.
Democrats have opposed the worker aid measure, but after being split from the legislation, the bill will get the approval of the House of Representatives. Many unions and activists have been opposing the trade deal because of concerns about job loss. The concern is shared with the frontrunner for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton. President Obama has come to a rift with fellow Democrats, particularly House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. After the Senate approval of the bill, the Democrats are ready to debate the in the fight for working families.
According to Reuters, U.S. labor groups are fighting the fast-track authority and have stated “We will vigorously oppose TPP if it continues on its current course.” However, many companies have welcomed the Senate vote of approval. Doug Oberhelam, the chief executive of Caterpillar Inc has stated “We are optimistic that the fast-track authority will lead the way for many new market-opening agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has been joined in the approval by technology companies such as Intel Corp, International Business Machines Corp, Metlife, etc.
After the President has signed the legislation, the United States will be ready to negotiate trade and move towards free trade, meaning more jobs and more opportunities for working families and small businesses. Even with the move to a more globalized economy, the trade deal would cost Americans jobs. The President considers the legislation to be his legacy and counts it as means to counter the dominance of China within Asia.