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Policy

Trade Fight Looms As Key Bills Head For House And Senate Votes

Congress: Legislation would pave the way for U.S. to join trade pact with Asia-Pacific region

by Glenn Hess
May 4, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 18

Congressional committees recently agreed to give President Barack Obama the authority he needs to wrap up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the proposed free-trade pact between the U.S., Japan, and 10 other countries mostly in the Asia-Pacific region.

But the real fight over the legislation (S. 995 and H.R. 1890) will occur in the coming weeks when the controversial measure comes up for final votes in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The trade promotion bill would allow President Obama to submit the completed TPP deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote, rather than allowing lawmakers to amend it.

Without this fast-track procedure, analysts say that no trade partner will make concessions to U.S. negotiators because Congress could pick the deal apart.

The chemical industry, one of the nation’s top exporting sectors, supports both the legislation and the TPP.

“For U.S. chemical manufacturers to succeed in today’s global economy, we must be able to compete effectively in international markets,” says Michael P. Walls, vice president of regulatory and technical affairs at the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association.

The fast-track mechanism will “help open markets and ensure the U.S. chemical industry can capitalize on its massive export potential,” Walls adds.

But the legislation faces strong opposition from the labor movement and its Democratic allies, who argue that trade agreements have caused an outflow of manufacturing jobs from the U.S. to other nations.

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