Senate poised to give Obama new trade negotiating clout, boosting hopes for Pacific-rim pact

Economic Indicators Associated Press

The Senate is preparing to hand President Barack Obama a major victory with final passage of "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals.

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Doing so would cap a remarkable turnabout for an initiative that House Democrats nearly killed a few days ago.

Unions and most congressional Democrats say free-trade deals cost U.S. jobs and reward countries that pollute and mistreat workers. Obama and most Republican leaders say U.S. products must reach broader markets.

The Senate plans to vote on three other trade-related bills. One would extend a job retraining program for workers displaced by international trade. That program requires House approval, too.

Senate passage Wednesday of fast-track authority would boost Obama's hopes for a 12-nation Pacific-rim trade agreement. Members include Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada.