Republicans simplify Bill linked to TPP

Worker aid plan removed, in new bid to give Obama fast-track power

WASHINGTON - Republicans in the United States House of Representatives tried to revive legislation central to President Barack Obama's Pacific Rim trade deal by offering up a simpler version of a Bill that failed last week.

Yesterday's move represents a rapid course correction by Republican leaders and Mr Obama, who both favour the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a keystone of the President's Asia pivot.

Under the new plan, lawmakers are expected to debate and vote on whether to give Mr Obama "fast-track" authority to expedite the TPP through Congress, this time without a companion measure to renew a programme aiding US workers hurt by trade. If the Bill succeeds in the House, it would have to win Senate approval as well, with a vote possibly coming next week.

An earlier Bill that combined the two measures backfired last Friday when Democrats, who usually support the worker aid pro-gramme, voted against it in order to stop the fast-track initiative.

Many Democrats, who have strong links to trade unions, fear trade deals such as the TPP will cost US jobs as employers chase lower costs in signatory nations.

Mr Obama has said that without the TPP, China would gain more influence than the US in shaping regional trade rules.

Last Friday's vote was a slap in the face for Mr Obama, who had personally appealed to his fellow Democrats over the TPP.

On Wednesday, House and Senate Republican leaders committed to pressing ahead with the worker aid programme in a separate Bill, although it was unclear whether that would be enough to keep Senate Democrats behind the initiative.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Wednesday that Mr Obama is open to a legislative strategy that separates fast-track from worker aid, as long as both issues make it to his desk to be signed into law.

TPP partners such as Japan have said the fast-track is vital to completing the TPP as it gives trading partners confidence that Congress can approve or reject deals, but not pick them apart.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'Republicans simplify Bill linked to TPP'. Print Edition | Subscribe