19 Jun 2015

US vote revives Pacific trade pact

7:42 am on 19 June 2015

Legislation key to securing a hallmark Pacific trade deal has passed through the United States House of Representatives on a second attempt.

Members of the House departing for the weekend after a series of critical votes at the US Capitol 12 June 2015 in Washington, DC.

The measure passed in the US House of Representatives now gotes tot he Senate for approval. Photo: AFP

The vote gives the White House authority to close trade deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which encompasses 40 percent of the global economy and is close to completion.

It was second attempt to get the legislation through the House of Representatives in less than a week.

But the bill, a stripped-down version of legislation which failed at a vote last week, must now go back to the Senate for approval, where a vote is likely next week.

New Zealand's Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser said this week that if the US did not quickly pass fast-track authority for the TPP trade deal, America could also "kiss goodbye" to a similar mega-regional deal with Europe.

Wrangling over legislation

The House has been wrestling for weeks with fast-track authority, which lets lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, such as the TPP, but restricts them to a yes-or-no vote on the finished agreement.

Democrats last week dramatically rejected a personal appeal from President Barack Obama to back legislation central to his Pacific Rim trade deal by voting down a companion measure to renew an expiring programme to help workers hurt by trade.

The trade package consists of three basic components.

That measure was cut from the bill approved on Thursday, but the change from the original legislation ensures a return to the Senate, delaying final passage further.

In debate before the vote, many Democrats lined up on the House floor to voice their anger with Obama's trade initiative.

"This thing is modeled after NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which cost us five million jobs," said veteran Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter.

Republicans, weary of the long struggle to pass fast-track, urged the House to vote and move on.

"Enacting trade promotion authority is critical for our economy and for our national security, and so we're going to get it done here today," Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan, a Republican, said.

- Reuters / RNZ

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