24 Jun 2015

TPP moves step nearer after US vote

6:49 am on 24 June 2015

The US Senate has approved a measure that will make it easier for President Barack Obama to have the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal signed.

US President Barack Obama in Washington on 9 June 2015.

President Barack Obama Photo: AFP

Lawmakers voted 60-37 to limit debate on legislation that would grant the president the authority to rush trade deals through Congress.

A Senate vote on the legislation itself, known as fast-track negotiating power, was expected on Wednesday. Approval at that stage would send the bill to Mr Obama for review.

Trading partners want fast-track enacted before finalising the TPP, a 12-nation partnership including New Zealand. Many nations in the talks would not agree on a deal without the fast-track approval as Congress could then unpick any agreement.

Fast-track legislation would let lawmakers set negotiating objectives for trade deals, including the TPP, but it would restrict them to yes-or-no votes on final agreements.

After considering the legislation last month, the Senate was forced to debate the measure again this week after Democrats in the House of Representatives refused to approve the companion measure for workers.

The White House on Tuesday urged the US Congress to send trade legislation to President Barack Obama for signing this week.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, at his daily briefing, urged lawmakers to keep up the momentum and pass the legislation so Mr Obama can sign it.

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