U.S. House of Representatives approves trade authority for Obama

US President, Barack Obama

US President, Barack Obama

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a bill granting President Barack Obama wide-ranging authority to negotiate trade deals.

The 218-208 vote on so-called fast track trade authority came as part of an agreement among lawmakers to revive Obama’s trade agenda, after part of his trade package failed to pass the lower chamber of Congress last week.

The vote should clear the way for completion of trade deals under negotiation with Pacific Rim countries and the European Union.

The House on Friday had passed the same measure, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), but had failed to approve a companion bill that would renew a programme to compensate workers who lose their jobs to free trade initiatives.

House rules had tied the measures together, keeping TPA from becoming law without the related worker assistance package.

However an agreement reached by House and Senate leaders on Wednesday allowed lawmakers to decouple the measures.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have vowed to take up the worker protections separately.

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