WASHINGTON-The U.S. House of Representatives dealt a setback to President Barack Obama's ambitious trade agenda Friday, voting to block a measure giving him fast-track authority to conclude a trans-Pacific trade accord.
The vote, in which some two thirds of the House opposed the so-called Trade Adjustment Assistance, was a stinging defeat for Obama, who personally came to Capitol Hill in an effort to get fellow Democrats on board with his trade plan.
Immediately afterward, the House narrowly passed the bill that would give Obama Trade Promotion Authority to rapidly conclude the Pacific trade deal and send it to Congress for an up-or-down vote, but without lawmakers' ability to make changes.
But it was merely a show vote, because the rejection of the measure that helps U.S. workers displaced by globalization automatically put the brakes on TPA.
Both measures have already passed the Senate, but TPA is now stuck in limbo in Congress because the pair are part of the Senate package.
TPA would allow Obama to finalize negotiations with 11 other Pacific Rim countries on what would be the largest trade agreement ever, a massive pact with Japan, Australia, Canada, Chile, Vietnam and others encompassing some 40 percent of global commerce.
"We need to slow this fast track down," top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi, a longtime Obama ally, told members immediately before the vote, revealing her position on trade that she had kept private for weeks.
"Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for America's workers," she said.
House Speaker John Boehner has left open the possibility of concluding the trade package at a later date.
Copyright Agence France-Press, 2015