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Wyden's trade bill passed by U.S. Senate

UPDATE: Wyden, Merkley disagree over vote

The U.S. Senate passed so-called fast track international trade legislation co-sponsored by Oregon Sen. Wyden on Friday.

Wyden is the Democratic sponsored of legislation — officially called Trade Promotion Authority — that has been attacked by labor unions and supported by business organizations.

The vote was 62 to 37, with a coalition of nearly 50 Senate Republicans and more than 10 Democrats voted for the legislation. It now goes to the U.S. House, where passage is expected to be even more difficult.

Wyden issued a length statement after the vote, explaining the legislation directs the administration on the goals it should seek in trade agreements. That is different than the legislation that authorized earlier treaties, Wyden said, like the North American Free Trade Agreement that has been blamed for exporting U.S. jobs overseas.

"Today the U.S. Senate closed the door on the 1990s and NAFTA-style trade deals. Congress sent the message that trade done right will open new markets to red-white-and-blue-products while raising the bar on the environment, labor and human rights values Oregonians hold dear at the same time," Wyden said. "This legislation tells the administration to seek out the strongest possible deals that will create new Oregon jobs, protect the open Internet, and contribute to a growing middle class around the world that is anxious to buy the wine, wheat, electronics, berries, bikes and everything else that Oregonians grow and produce."

The passage was critiicized by Oregon's other Democratic U.S. Senator, however.

"With this rushed vote, we have not addressed fundamental issues critical to making trade work for working Americans," said Jeff Merkley. "There’s nothing that will make sure trade deals raise wages, there’s nothing to make sure the trade deals raise labor standards so our workers aren’t competing with people earning 60 or 70 cents a dollar overseas. It still allows foreign corporations to challenge our public health, environmental, and consumer protection laws in tribunals outside of our courts. It does not prevent foreign countries from undermining trade agreements and undercutting American businesses and workers by manipulating the value of their currencies."

The U.S. Conference of Mayors praised the Senate vote.

"?The U.S. Conference of Mayors applauds bi-partisan passage today of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA 2015) in the United States Senate. In our annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, last year, the Conference adopted strong policy in support of TPA and called on the Administration to pursue 21st Century trade agreements in the Pacific Rim and the Trans Atlantic," said Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the organization's president.

"?TPA makes possible fair, enforceable, high standard trade agreements that create jobs, increase exports and help our local economies compete in an ever changing global economy. Through TPA 2015, American workers will benefit by having access to the world’s rising consumers who want to buy American-made products for their quality and innovation.

"?We now call on the House to pass TPA 2015, so that America can continue as a global economic leader.”

For previous Portland Tribune coverage, see http://portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/260943-131710-schnitzer-steel-ceo-says-trade-treaty-critical-for-oregon.