Thursday, September 22, 2011

US Senate defeats expanding Obama trade powers

US Senate defeats expanding Obama trade powers; AFP

The US Senate on Tuesday rejected a Republican push to expand President Barack Obama's powers to negotiate trade deals, amid a broader fight over accords with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea.

With those three deals edging towards approval in the divided US Congress, lawmakers beat back Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's drive to give Obama "Trade Promotion Authority" (TPA) in a mostly party-line 45-55 vote.

"Without TPA, the US will likely never agree to another deal again. The unions will make sure of it," charged McConnell. "We can't miss more opportunities to compete in foreign markets with US-made products."

TPA, formerly known as "fast-track," enabled the US president to negotiate a trade deal then submit it for approval by the US Congress in a straight up-or-down vote with no amendments before it lapsed in 2007.

McConnell, who has said Republicans' top goal is defeating Obama in the November 2012 election, tied his initiative to stubbornly high US unemployment of over nine percent -- which threatens the president's bid for a new term.

"With 14 million Americans out of work and thousands of Americans looking for opportunities to sell American-made goods around the world, we can't afford to wait," said the Republican leader.

Obama has not sought TPA, and has held off submitting free trade pacts with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea until the congress approves Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) -- aid for workers displaced by overseas competition. ...

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