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Josh Rogin

Malaysian Trafficking May Doom Pacific Trade Deal

State Department's human-rights report becomes an obstacle.
Obama's Pacific bloc.

Obama's Pacific bloc.

Photographer: Kent Nishimura-Pool/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama’s effort to build the largest trade alliance in the Pacific faces a roadblock in the Senate, where a bill to give the White House "fast track" authority  in trade negotiations is hung up over Malaysia’ dismal record on human trafficking.  On Wednesday, the road to the Trans Pacific Partnership got even rockier, thanks to Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

The president and Senate Republicans find themselves on the same side here, pushing for a trade promotion authority measure that would force Congress to take an up-or-down vote on trade pacts -- including Obama's TPP -- without adding any amendments.  The Pacific trade pact, which is still being negotiated, is a vital to Obama's legacy and potentially the keystone of the administration’s oft-criticized rebalance to Asia.