US House backs 'fast-track' trade bill

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The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved "fast-track" trade negotiating authority, which President Barack Obama needs to complete a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade pact, although the bill must go back to the Senate for another vote.

The 218-208 House vote to approve the measure on a second attempt in less than one week gives a boost to hopes for swift completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is central to Obama's focus on strengthening Asian ties.

The move represents a rapid course correction by Republican leaders and Obama, who both favor the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, a keystone of the president's push to strengthen American ties with Asia.

An earlier bill that combined two measures backfired last Friday when Democrats, who traditionally support the worker aid program, voted against it in order to stop the broader fast-track initiative.

Many Democrats, who have strong links to trade unions, fear trade deals such as the TPP will cost U.S. jobs as employers chase lower costs in signatory countries.

—Reuters contributed to this report.