Fast-track avoids ‘mistakes from our past’ on trade: Obama

Washington | Reuters –– U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday praised a bipartisan bill that would fast-track trade deals through Congress, urging lawmakers to pass it quickly so his administration can advance a trade pact with Pacific nations.

“The bill put forward today would help us write those rules in a way that avoids the mistakes from our past, seizes opportunities for our future, and stays true to our values,” Obama said in a statement.

“It would level the playing field, give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment, and a free and open internet,” he said.

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Past trade deals, he said in a statement, “haven’t always lived up to their promise, and that’s why I will only sign my name to an agreement that helps ordinary Americans get ahead.”

The proposed Bipartisan Trade Priorities and Accountability Act “represents the most significant upgrade to our approach to trade in over four decades,” U.S. Trade Representative Michael From an said separately Thursday.

Trade promotion authority (TPA) is considered a key step toward U.S. involvement in trade pacts — in this case, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), now being negotiated between the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, Mexico and seven other countries.

“TPA is not a new concept that affords extraordinary negotiating powers to the president,” Devry Boughner Vorwerk, director of international business relations for Cargill, said in a separate company release Thursday urging fast-track legislation.

“Every president since (Franklin Roosevelt) has been given fast-track authority to negotiate trade agreements,” said Boughner, who’s also co-chair of the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP.

“Since the last fast-track bill expired in 2007, progress on new free trade agreements has slowed,” she said. “Congress needs to pass TPA if the U.S. wants to keep its place in the world economy.”

Reporting for Reuters by Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Krista Hughes. Includes files from AGCanada.com Network staff.

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