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Wyden's fast-track bill headed to President Obama

Portland business leaders praise Wyden's leadership

The U.S. Senate passed the so-called fast track trade bill cosponsored by Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden on Wednesday, paving the way for President Obama to submit new trade treaties to the Senate for up or down votes without amendments.

“Today the U.S. Senate voted on a bipartisan basis to step into the ring with the world and fight for the best deals for American workers and employers, instead of retreating to our corner,” Wyden said after the vote.

Sandra McDonough, President and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance, said the bipartisan vote will ultimately boost the state and regional economy.

"This is a major victory for our statewide economy. Oregon is one of the most trade-dependent states in the nation where nearly half a million jobs are connected to international trade," McDonough said.

"Congressional negotiations on TPA were led by Oregon’s Senator Wyden and received the support of U.S. House Representatives Blumenauer, Bonamici, Walden and Schrader. They all did the right thing for Oregon jobs and for the regional economy. We want to thank them and applaud their leadership."

The 60-38 vote caps a wild two weeks in Congress that saw the bill — officially known as Trade Promotion Authority — defeated and then revived in the Senate, stalled and then revived in the U.S. House, and finally passed again by the Senate for the final time.

The Senate and House are now expected to take up related bills that are part of the package negotiated by Wyden to ensure that trading partners better comply with U.S. labor, environmental and consumer standards. All are top priorities of President Obama.

“From the beginning, President Obama and I have been committed to crafting the most progressive trade legislation ever. Better trade bills produce better trade agreements. So I’m proud to say this trade package will create the opportunity for new, good-paying jobs, to strengthen support for American workers, and to give our trade laws the teeth they need to crack down on trade cheats," Wyden said.

Oregon's other U.S. Senator, Jeff Merkley, voted against the bill.

“When crafting a new trade structure, our national objective should be raising wages and living standards for middle-class Americans. Past trade deals have consistently failed to live up to their promises and made it harder for working Americans to get ahead. Unfortunately, the fast track bill passed by the Senate today does not change that fundamental structure — a structure which has led so many past trade deals to create job losses and falling wages for working Americans," Merkley said after the vote.

The first new treaty submitted to the Senate is expected to be the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership the Obama Administration has been negotiating for year.

"We hope this new authority given to President Obama to negotiate trade deals will result in swift completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The TPP will enable better trade agreements between the United States and 11 other mostly Asia-facing countries, bringing more business and jobs to our state," said McDonough.

Portland businessman Armagan Akar was in Washington DC when the vote occurred. He is President and Director of the Teseda Corporation, which sells semi-conductor testing equipment.

"We export all over the world," says Akar, who called new trade treaties essential for his small but growing company.

Akar was part of a business delegation from Oregon on a trip organized by the White House Business Council and Business Forward, It was scheduled to include meetings with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

The TPA bill had been support by many business interests but opposed by a coalition of labor unions, environmental groups, and social justice organization.

The National Association of Manufacturers hailed the final passage of TPA. President and CEO Jay Timmons and Vice Chair of International Economic Affairs Policy and Emerson Chairman and CEO David Farr released the following joint statement:

“Manufacturers in the United States — and all Americans — scored a decisive win today. The Senate brought us a pivotal step closer toward opening doors to the 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside our borders. We applaud the Senate for moving swiftly to secure more opportunities for manufacturers to sell our products overseas, increase global competitiveness and fuel our ability to grow and create jobs. Once President Obama has signed this critical legislation into law, the U.S. can regain its leadership role and move forward aggressively to open markets and expand global opportunities.”

The Retail Industry Leaders Association also praised the passage.

"Retailers applaud the Senate for approving Trade Promotion Authority and paving the way to economic growth by providing American consumers and businesses with access to new markets,” said Hun Quach, Vice President for International Trade. “With its final approval from Congress, TPA will now ensure the Administration brings home trade agreements that create new opportunities for American businesses and bolsters U.S. competitiveness around the world.”