2 Mar 2013

White House works on new trade legislation

10:44 am on 2 March 2013

US President Barack Obama's administration says it will work with Congress on trade legislation as it tries to wrap up talks on a free trade pact involving New Zealand this year.

New Zealand and the US are among 11 countries trying to reach a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Trade promotion authority (TPA) or "fast track" trade legislation would allow the White House to submit deals to Congress for straight up-or-down votes without any amendments.

The Obama administration, even without TPA, has pursued the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

But it is generally believed other countries will not make hard trade-offs needed to reach a deal with the United States unless they are confident Congress will not change the pact.

The legislation has long been considered essential for negotiating new trade agreements, but the Obama administration has gone four years without pushing for renewal of law, which expired in 2007.

Congress last approved a TPA bill in 2002, following a bitter fight. Republicans, who generally favor free trade, passed the bill over the objections of Democrats, many of whom blame past trade agreements for US job losses.