Well, it seems that some folks in the U.S. Senate aren’t averse to doing things in a hurry.
The New York Times reported Thursday afternoon that the honchos of Congress’s two tax-writing committees have agreed to give President Obama “fast track” authority to negotiate a far-reaching trade accord with 11 other Pacific countries. Obama’s “trade promotion authority” bill will likely be rolled out late Thursday. It will give Congress the power to vote on the president’s much-vaunted Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But it would deny legislators in both parties the opportunity to amend what the Times calls the “largest trade deal since the North American Free Trade Agreement.”
The fast track bill could ready for full Senate consideration next week.
Asia Unhedged wonders why these Republican committee chairs, so skilled in the art of legislative deadlock vs. a democratic president, suddenly moved. Might it have something to do with an obscure Chinese development bank taking shape on the other side of the Pacific, or the idea of a Chinese bullet train streaking past the long-lost tomb of Genghis Khan?
Whatever the reason, Obama’s fast-track bill and the TPP still face plenty of monkeys in the trees on both sides of the aisle. The chorus of jeers includes conservative Republicans chagrined at giving the White House more executive authority to Democrats antsy about the impact on jobs, the environment and human rights.
Despite the TPP’s uncertain fate, introducing the fast-track bill sends an upbeat signal to Japan ahead of a key state visit to Washington in late April by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. It also sends positive smoke signals to other Asian trading partners.
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