United States urges update to fast-track trade authority

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 23, 2015 5:03 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States' top trade official urged lawmakers on Monday to update legislation streamlining the passage of trade deals through Congress to reflect the new global economy.

Bipartisan negotiations are continuing on the final form of a bill which will restrict Congress to a yes-or-no vote on trade deals in exchange for setting negotiating objectives. The Republican chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Orrin Hatch, has said he hopes to present legislation this month.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the last time Congress passed such legislation, in 2002, only 4 percent of companies on the Fortune Global 500 list were from emerging markets, compared to one in four now.

Twelve of the largest 50 companies on the Fortune Global 500 list were now state-owned, compared to just one in 2002, and consumers had downloaded more than 25 billion songs through Apple Inc's iTunes store, which did not exist in 2002, he said.

“It’s time to update trade promotion legislation to meet the needs of today’s global economy," Froman said in remarks prepared for delivery to the National Association of Counties.

Passing fast-track legislation is seen as key to sealing major trade deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, as trading partners can have more confidence deals will not be picked apart in Congress.

But it faces opposition from some conservative Republicans and some Democrats worried about the impact of trade deals on jobs.

(Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)