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US House passes TPA
19
Jun '15
US lawmakers have voted to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a major trans-Pacific trade accord, moving it closer to his desk after a dramatic defeat last week, the media has reported.

Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) narrowly passed the House of Representatives by 218 votes to 208 as a stand-alone bill, after congressional leaders uncoupled it from a worker-assistance programme that crashed to defeat on June 12 when most Democrats voted against it in order to block the trade package.

TPA now heads to the US Senate, where it could receive a vote as early as next week. Holding the vote so soon after last week's blockage - a major embarrassment for Obama, whose Democrats largely deserted him - signalled Republican congressional leaders' confidence they have sufficient votes to get the entire package across the finish line.

Only 28 Democrats supported the measure, with 158 voting against, along with 50 Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner offered little insight into what may have prompted the breakthrough.

"We're committed to ensuring that both trade promotion authority and trade adjustment assistance pass the House and Senate and go to the president for his signature," Boehner said. "Getting this work done is critical to expanding opportunities for American workers and American-made goods."

TPA would boost Obama's chances of finalising a sweeping trade accord with 11 other Pacific nations. He could then bring it to Congress for an up-or-down vote, with lawmakers not given a chance to modify it.

Many Democrats are concerned the trade deal would lead to a shedding of American jobs. Seeing little prospect of blocking TPA, which is widely supported by Republicans, they lined up en masse against the TAA bill, which needed to pass for both bills to reach the president.

The Pacific trade agreement under negotiation would comprise an estimated 40 percent of global trade, a massive pact with Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Vietnam and other countries.

The National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) has applauded House passage of the TPA. “We want to thank those members of Congress who supported the passage of Trade Promotion Authority,” said NCTO president Augustine Tantillo. “These members are helping to ensure that we have direct and meaningful input into trade negotiations and thus helping to provide a strong outcome for US textile manufacturers.”

The American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) also welcomed the passage of the TPA. “We’re pleased the House passed TPA and thank them for acting quickly to put this legislation on a path for approval by the President. Today’s vote is a big step forward and we urge the Senate to follow suit, act quickly, and pass the House-approved TPA bill,” AAFA’s president & CEO Juanita D. Duggan said in a statement. (SH)

Fibre2fashion News Desk – India

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