US blockage on fast-track Bill for TPP 'a concern': NZ trade minister

A blockage in granting the United States administration authority to negotiate a Pacific regional trade deal is a concern and will delay reaching a final agreement, New Zealand's Trade Minister Tim Groser said on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: AFP
A blockage in granting the United States administration authority to negotiate a Pacific regional trade deal is a concern and will delay reaching a final agreement, New Zealand's Trade Minister Tim Groser said on Wednesday. -- PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A blockage in granting the United States administration authority to negotiate a Pacific regional trade deal is a concern and will delay reaching a final agreement, New Zealand's Trade Minister Tim Groser said on Wednesday.

US Senate Democrats blocked debate on a Bill that would have smoothed the path for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which a White House spokesman called a "procedural snafu".

Mr Groser said granting fast-track authority was vital for the TPP. "What we're trying to do is get the fundamental political deal over the line before the Washington summer break," Groser told Radio New Zealand.

"Even if they sort it out it's pushing the timetable out," he added, adding that he doubted a final TPP deal would be reached without the fast-track authority.

US President Barack Obama held a "constructive session" with 10 Democratic senators on Tuesday after a vote in which they blocked the fast-track trade Bill, the White House said in a statement. "Members in attendance reiterated their support for TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) legislation that will pave the way for high-standard trade agreements that support good American jobs, protect our workers and environment, and ensure that the United States, and not countries like China, write the rules for the global economy," the White House said.

Republican US Senator Orrin Hatch said on Tuesday the Senate could take one or two days to put together a new plan to move forward with the fast-track trade promotion authority.

"Sometimes you just have to let it percolate for a while. I think one or two days," said Sen Hatch, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He said the idea would be to have four votes on four trade bills Democrats want.

United States Senate Democrats delivered a major blow to President Barack Obama's trade agenda on Tuesday by blocking debate on the Bill.

The stunning outcome cast doubt on legislation that is key to the Obama administration's ability to complete the 12-nation TPP, which includes Singapore as an original signatory.

The Senate voted 52-45 - eight short of the 60 votes needed.