‘Fast-track’ trade bill passes Senate

The Senate on Friday voted to give President Obama “fast-track” negotiating powers to conclude a controversial 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal, that has prompted heated opposition from within his own party. Reuters reports:

Obama needs trade promotion authority (TPA) to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement this year, an economic alliance that would encompass 40 percent of the world’s economies in countries ranging from Japan to Chile.

“Today’s bipartisan Senate vote is an important step toward ensuring the United States can negotiate and enforce strong, high-standards trade agreements,” Obama said in a statement issued immediately after the Senate passage.

But according to the Huffington Post, the final version of the bill “threw a wrench into the President’s plans.”

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, senior associate dean of international business and finance at Tufts University writes at CNBC why the congressional fuss “won’t scare off the partners.”

“…the TPP matters much more to them than it does to the U.S., particularly from an economic standpoint. The gain of 0.3 to 0.4 percent in U.S. GDP is modest when compared to Vietnam’s 10-percent GDP boost and even to Japan’s 2-percent benefit, a giant leap for a country stuck in over two decades of a recession. The partner countries would likely hang on for the long ride, keen to see the partnership through. The stop-and-start process is also surprisingly helpful for the U.S. because it serves the purpose of sending a signal to these partners: American voters have concerns and they need to be addressed.”

Paul Krugman writes at the New York Times:

I don’t know why the president has chosen to make the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership such a policy priority. Still, there is an argument to be made for such a deal, and some reasonable, well-intentioned people are supporting the initiative.

But other reasonable, well-intentioned people have serious questions about what’s going on. And I would have expected a good-faith effort to answer those questions. Unfortunately, that’s not at all what has been happening.


* WORLD * Reuters reports that government prosecutors are investigating the company at the center of the California pipeline leak this week that caused thousands of gallons of oil to leak onto the coastline near Santa Barbara.


* POLITICS *  The GOP Presidential field may have just shrunk by one.

Katie Glueck and Nick Gass at Politico write on “why Huckabee went all-in for the Duggars”.

Bob Cesca writes at Salon on why Huckabee’s move “kind of makes sense.”

Huckabee’s candidacy isn’t about helping his supporters who, by the way, are donating their hard-earned cash and limited spare time to his campaign; Huckabee’s candidacy is all about increasing his media cache, it’s about boosting his speaking fees and strengthening his hand in preparation for his next Fox News Channel contract. Former George W. Bush speechwriter, David Frum saliently refers to Fox News and AM talk radio as the “conservative entertainment complex” and Huckabee is one of the main stage players. This can’t be emphasized enough: Huckabee is taking money from ordinary Americans who think he’s in the race to win and to change things, when in reality he has no hope of winning and he knows it.

Meanwhile, Conservative pundits are already turning away.

And somewhere, Rick Santorum is thinking “phew…”


* CULTURE * The Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Vienna on Saturday. The BBC reports that around 200 million people are expected to watch live in what’s expected to be the biggest-ever version of the annual competition.

If you’ve never seen it before, here’s “ten of the best” numbers that “lived on after the voting” from The Guardian.

Oh, and, don’t let the name fool you – Australia are taking part this year for the first time. It’s also the first time the contest will have sign language translation.

Whatever happens in real life, though, it’s probably unlikely to top this:



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