By Isaac Cohen*
This week, President Barack Obama achieved the most significant legislative victory on international economic policy of his mandate. Two weeks ago, with bipartisan support, the US Congress gave the President authorization to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can only accept or reject. Known as trade promotion authority and granted for six years, its approval saved the ongoing negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership, encompassing 12 nations and 40 percent of the world economy. Also, it keeps the door open to future negotiations for another mega trade agreement with the European Union.
The first attempt to approve the initiative failed, mainly because of opposition in the House from legislators of the President’s own Democratic Party, led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Therefore, the original package deal of two separate bills which had to be approved together, one on the negotiating authority and the other on training assistance for displaced workers, had to be split. As agreed with President Barack Obama by the Republican leaders, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, first the negotiating authority was approved and later the training assistance bill.
In all, 28 Democrats in the House and 14 Democratic Senators sufficed to approve both bills, which were signed into law by the President. As described by Senator Mitch McConnell, “there were a lot of us but a few of them… we all found ourselves on the same side.”
*International analyst and consultant. Commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Español TV and radio. Former Director, UNECLAC.