Date
18 December 2017
Mitch McConnell, shown with his wife Elaine Chao, acknowledges supporters on election night. He told reporters he is ready to work with President Barack Obama on trade. Photo: Bloomberg
Mitch McConnell, shown with his wife Elaine Chao, acknowledges supporters on election night. He told reporters he is ready to work with President Barack Obama on trade. Photo: Bloomberg

Republican triumph may boost US trade deals

Republican leaders will work with the Obama administration on trade after Wednesday’s sweeping election victories put the party in control of both houses of Congress. 

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the presumptive Senate majority leader, said he had talked about trade with President Barack Obama, adding “I think he’s interested in moving forward”.

Obama also mentioned trade as an area of potential cooperation in a talk with reporters, according to the Financial Times.

Most Republicans support planned trade deals with Europe and countries on the Pacific Rim but McConnell said many Democrats are “unenthusiastic about international trade”.

Orrin Hatch, who is in line to take over the chairmanship of the Senate Finance Committee, said granting the president so-called “fast-track” authority to conclude trade agreements was a priority for co-operation.

“We simply have to move past the partisan gridlock that has bogged down Washington for the past six years,” he said in a statement.

Obama is betting on “mega-regional” trade deals with Japan and 10 other economies in the Pacific Rim and across the Atlantic with the EU.

The US is leading negotiations in Geneva on a global revamp of the rules governing the trade in services.

But making those deals a reality depends on the president securing fast-track authority, which limits the ability of Congress to unpick what has been negotiated.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid has blocked an administration push to secure trade promotion authority since January.

The administration has coaxed its negotiating partners to proceed with talks regardless, offering guarantees that it could secure the vital backing of Congress after the midterms, the report said.

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