April 20, 2015 / 11:46 PM / 5 years ago

U.S. business groups to urge Congress to approve fast-track trade authority

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Almost 300 business groups from across the United States are urging swift passage of a bipartisan bill in Congress that would “fast-track” trade deals, in a letter they plan to send to congressional leaders on Tuesday.

Noting that Washington was negotiating trade deals with Pacific countries and Europe, the letter seen by Reuters, dated April 21, said: “To realize the potential of these agreements for U.S. jobs, economic growth and competitiveness, Congress must pass Trade Promotion Authority.”

The National Association of Manufacturers said on Monday the letter it and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce were sending had been signed by nearly 300 state and local associations involved in almost all areas of the economy.

“Our chambers of commerce, manufacturing organizations, and farm bureaus represent millions of companies, workers, farmers, and ranchers from every sector of the economy and every state in the union,” said the letter, which will be delivered to congressional offices on Tuesday morning.

Senior U.S. lawmakers reached agreement last week on a bill to give the White House fast-track authority to negotiate a trade pact with 11 other Pacific nations that is central to President Barack Obama’s strategic shift toward Asia.

Obama has urged lawmakers to pass the bill quickly.

The bill would give lawmakers the right to set negotiating objectives, but would restrict them to a yes-or-no vote on trade deals.

U.S. labor unions that are supporters of Democratic politicians fear the deal will favor big U.S. corporations at the expense of American jobs and tougher foreign safety and environmental standards.

Reporting by Peter Cooney; editing by Diane Craft

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