US trade rep tells lawmakers Obama needs enhanced trade authority to seal important pacts

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The Obama administration's top trade official says Congress must return enhanced negotiating powers to the White House in order to cut important trade deals with Pacific-rim nations and others.

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U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told Congress on Tuesday that President Barack Obama needs "trade promotion authority." That power, sometimes called "fast-track" authority, allows presidents to send proposed trade agreements to Congress for yes or no votes, with no amendments.

Congress has sometimes granted such powers before.

Utah Republican and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch agreed that Obama needs the enhanced authority to complete a long-discussed trade deal with Japan and several other Pacific nations.

Many Democrats, liberals and labor groups oppose such deals, which they say hurt American jobs. Several anti-trade protesters interrupted Froman's committee testimony.