2015-04-24T001045Z_1_LYNXMPEB3N005_RTROPTP_2_USA-OBAMA

House panel passes fast track trade bill

The U.S. Capitol stands in WashingtonLegislation to speed trade deals through the U.S. Congress cleared through a key committee on Thursday, but low Democratic support signaled a looming battle over a Pacific trade pact central to President Barack Obama’s strategic shift toward Asia. Democrats and Republicans clashed over proposals to punish countries that manipulate their currencies to gain an export edge and ways to give lawmakers more leverage over trade deals like the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. Despite the partisan wrangling, the vote in the House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee marked an important step forward for the legislation, which would prohibit Congress from amending trade deals and allow for just yes-or-no votes. Obama and major U.S. trade partners, including Japan, have said the measure is vital to seal the TPP deal.

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