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Thursday, June 25, 2015, 09:14

US Senate nod to fast track trade bill

By Associated Press

US Senate nod to fast track trade bill

WASHINGTON - The Republican-controlled US Congress passed major trade legislation Wednesday that was long-sought by President Barack Obama but vehemently opposed by most lawmakers in his Democratic party.

The measure would allow Obama to negotiate global trade deals that Congress could approve or reject, but not change. The administration was seeking the "fast track" as it works to complete a round of trade negotiations involving 12 nations along both sides of the Pacific Ocean, including Japan.

The 12 participating nations in the current Pacific-based talks account for 40 percent of the world's economy, and include Japan, Malaysia, Australia, Canada and Mexico. China is not a member, and Obama says a ratified Pacific-rim pact will reassert the United States' muscular role in international standards for commerce, treatment of workers and the environment.

Obama's victory comes at a pivotal juncture in his second term. He is bracing for a Supreme Court ruling on his landmark health care law, and next week's deadline is approaching for reaching a deal on Iran's nuclear program.

The measure to strengthen Obama's hand in the Pacific Rim trade talks cleared the Senate on a vote of 60-38, and will go to the White House for his signature — less than two weeks after it was temporarily derailed in the House in an uprising of Democratic lawmakers.

A companion bill, to renew an expiring program of federal aid for workers disadvantaged by imports, passed by voice vote less than an hour later. Final approval in the House is expected on Thursday.

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