WASHINGTON: The United States businesses on Wednesday urged President Barack Obama to make a case for fast-track authority on trade agreements before his upcoming trip to Asia, which is seen as an opportunity to push a Pacific trade deal.

Myron Brilliant, head of international affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce, said Obama should send a signal about trade in the time between mid-term US elections on November 4 and an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in China on November 10 and 11.

A bipartisan bill on so-called trade promotion authority (TPA), which allows lawmakers to set priorities for trade deals in return for a yes-or-no vote, was introduced in Congress in January but has not progressed to a vote.

“We think the time is ripe to move on trade and we are looking to signals from the president following the election that he will move on TPA,” Brilliant said.

The Apec summit, Obama’s first stop on a week-long trip to Asia, will be attended by the leaders of
the other 11 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It would cover 40 per cent of the world economy and is the economic arm of the administration’s move to engage more with Asia, seeking to set common standards in areas such as labour and intellectual property as well as break down trade barriers.

Trade experts say the lack of a trade promotion authority is one of the hurdles in finalising the TPP, since trade partners may fear Congress would later seek to amend the deal.

In an article in Foreign Policy Magazine earlier this month, US Trade Representative Michael Froman said TPA would give “US trading partners the necessary confidence to put their best and final offers on the table”. Reuters