The United States Senate took another step on Thursday to give President Barack Obama “fast-track” authority to negotiate a 12-nation trade agreement.
On a knife edge 62-38 vote, the Senate moved on to consider the measures to give the president so called fast track authority to negotiate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal without the threat of congressional amendments.
In an unlikely setting, 13 of the 44 Democrats and 49 of the 54 Republican senators voted in favour of the measure to reach more than 60 votes necessary to move forward to give democratic President Obama the ability to finalise one of his signature achievements of his economic legacy.
The TPP aims to increase trade among 12 Pacific nations - the United States, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam - by easing trade barriers.
When finalised, the TPP will bring together countries that produce 40 percent of World GDP and that considered a move to counter China’s economic influence.
The move was stalled by progressive democrats led by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren who claims the trade deal would hurt US workers by encouraging businesses to move overseas.
Proponents managed to garner enough support after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised a group of pro-trade Democrats to allow a vote next month to renew the charter of the Export-Import Bank, a federal agency which provides credits to US manufacturers’ exporting goods.
With the way for consideration cleared, senators will start to debate amendments to the bill of which some might be detrimental for its final approval.
One of the amendments proposed by the Democrats asks for sanctions for trading partners that manipulate their currencies to make their exports cheaper.
Partner countries oppose the provision and Obama said he would veto any bill that includes such sanctions.
Before going to Obama’s desk for approval, the bill has to go through the House of Representatives as well, where it is expected to face strong challenge.
Many conservative House Republicans oppose the bill saying it gives too much power to executive while the Democrats are worried of its possible effects on middle class workers with elections coming up next year.
The TPP is near completion after five years of negotiations but partner countries want fast track authorities approved before signing the deal.