Democrats Cave In, Give Obama Trade Authority

Just two days after blocking progress on a Pacific trade treaty, Democrats support their president after all.

American president Barack Obama makes a phone call from the White House in Washington DC, November 7, 2014
American president Barack Obama makes a phone call from the White House in Washington DC, November 7, 2014 (White House/Pete Souza)

The United States Senate on Thursday voted to consider giving President Barack Obama the authority to negotiate a trade treaty with eleven other Pacific nations.

The vote came just two days after Obama’s own Democrats blocked the measure. Many in the party fear that liberalizing 40 percent of world trade will depress wages in the United States and see more manufacturing jobs outsourced to Asia.

Thirteen out of 44 Democrats nevertheless voted for the president on Thursday after winning a separate vote on a bill that punishes countries that manipulate their currencies in order to keep their exports cheap.

The bill, which is aimed at China, is unlikely to become law, Politico reports — “Obama would probably veto it if it ever got to his desk” — but gives Democrats some cover after surrendering so quickly.

Trade unions, which tend to back Democrats, oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership which supporters say would boost global economic output by $220 billion over the next ten years.

The Republican majority in Congress favors the agreement which would also put pressure on China — now excluded from the talks — to meet its standards and stop trying to game global trade to impede foreign companies.

Having defeated the Democrats’ filibuster, a simply majority of Republicans in the Senate can give the president “fast track” authority to negotiate a treaty and submit it to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

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