Se­nate poised to hand Obama big vic­tory on ne­go­ti­at­ing trade pacts


The U.S. Se­nate is pre­par­ing to hand Pres­i­dent Barack Obama a ma­jor vic­tory with fi­nal pas­sage of “fast track” au­thor­ity to ne­go­ti­ate trade deals.

Do­ing so would cap a re­mark­able turn­about for an ini­tia­tive that Democrats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives nearly killed this month.

Unions and most con­gres­sional Democrats say free-trade deals cost U.S. jobs and re­ward coun- tries that pol­lute and mis­treat work­ers. But Obama and most Repub­li­can lead­ers say U.S. prod­ucts must reach broader mar­kets.

Se­nate ap­proval of fast track on Wed­nes­day would boost Obama’s hopes for a 12-na­tion Pa­cific rim trade agree­ment. It’s key to his ef­fort to ex­pand U.S. in­flu­ence in Asia. Ne­go­ti­at­ing par­ties in­clude Ja­pan, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada.

If granted fast-track au­thor­ity, Obama would ask Congress to rat­ify the Pa­cific deal af­ter the public has weeks or months to study it.

Some anti-trade groups say they will strongly op­pose the Pa­cific pact. Oth­ers seem more re­signed to the like­li­hood of new U.S. trade agree­ments in Obama’s fi­nal months in of­fice.

The Se­nate also plans to vote on three other trade- re­lated bills. The most im­por­tant would ex­tend a job re­train­ing pro­gram for work­ers dis­placed by in­ter­na­tional trade. That pro­gram would re­quire House ap­proval, too.

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