Members of the U.S. Senate approved a legislative measure Tuesday that will grant President Barack Obama with fast-track negotiating authority for the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.
The bill, which will prevent Congress from amending free trade deals negotiated by the president, just scraped the 60-vote minimum needed for its passage. However today’s vote was only a “cloture” vote to end debate on Fast Track and break any possibility for a filibuster. It passed by the minimum votes needed. On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on the actual Fast Track legislation.
President Obama needs fast track negotiating authority so he can finalize the pending TPP trade deal between the United States and 11 other nations and submit the trade deal to Congress for expedited review.
The Obama administration says trading partners are more likely to make concessions if they know the agreement can't be changed.
The TPP is one of three international trade deals that President Obama seeks to advance through the fast-track legislation. The other two are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trade in Services Agreement.
Collectively, these agreements could encompass 75 to 95 percent of global GDP.
All three agreements remain secret to the public, while TTIP and TiSA remain secret to lawmakers as well.
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Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, support fast track authority.
However, both the TPP trade deal and the fast track measure have been strongly criticized by labor leaders, members of civil society, and even presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton, who recently acknowledged its controversial nature, saying it should not go ahead unless some of the more objectionable parts are removed.
Leading up to the vote, the American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) issued a letter to members of the U.S. Senate urging them to oppose the fast track bill on the grounds that it would limit Congress’s ability to question controversial aspects of the TPP.
“Fast Track 2015 fails to hold the executive branch accountable for achieving negotiating objectives, addressing the job-killing U.S. trade imbalance (which currently stands at $505 billion), or ensuring that trade deals do not continue the current race to the bottom in terms of pay and benefits, worker rights, environmental protections, access to affordable medicines, food safety rules, and other vital protections for working families,” read the letter.
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