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Fast-Track Powers Needed for U.S.-Pacific Trade Deal, Kirk Says

The Obama administration will need Congress to pass legislation for swift action on trade deals to complete an accord with at least eight Pacific nations by the end of the year, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said.

Administration officials are in talks with congressional leaders on a bill, Kirk told reporters today after testifying to the House Ways and Means Committee. The so-called fast-track authority granted to the White House, which bans amendments, limits debate and ensures an up-or-down vote on trade agreements submitted by the president, expired after Democrats won control of Congress under President George W. Bush in 2007.

“In order for us to conclude the agreement we’re going to have to have trade-promotion authority,” Kirk said. “And at the right time we will work out the terms of that with the leadership of the committees.”

President Barack Obama is pursuing a deal with Australia, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei that would be the biggest for the U.S. since the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. Japan, along with NAFTA parties Canada and Mexico have expressed interest in joining the Pacific talks. If they do, it would be the largest free-trade deal ever for the U.S.

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