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Congress Gives President Obama Fast-Track Authority for Trade Deals

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-detailed-world-map-image29681182A contentious trade bill passed the U.S. Senate on Wednesday and is headed to the president’s desk.

The Senate voted 60-38 to renew Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which gives trade deals a “fast track” through Congress where lawmakers would only get an up-or-down vote without being able to add amendments.

TPA passed the House in a stand-alone bill last week by a 218-208 vote.

Most Democrats in both chambers opposed TPA because of concerns about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently under negotiation, while Republican lawmakers sided with President Obama.

Critics such as Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) argue that TPP will lower wages and send American jobs overseas, and that TPA means Congress can’t prevent that without voting against the entire deal.

They also say it could impact other realms such as finance, energy and food safety. Some food safety advocates are concerned TPP will result in the “harmonization” of food processing standards in different countries so that they’re deemed equivalent, even though one country might actually have higher standards than another.

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