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UPDATE 1-U.S. senator wants fast-track trade bill introduced by end Jan.
January 22, 2015 / 5:47 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-U.S. senator wants fast-track trade bill introduced by end Jan.

(Adds quotes from U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Sen. Ron Wyden, background)

WASHINGTON, Jan 22 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Senate committee responsible for trade said on Thursday he wanted to introduce a bill by the end of January that grants the White House authority to fast track trade deals.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said talks with Democrats on the final form of the bill, seen as key to sealing major trade deals, had come a long way.

“We want to do it before the end of this month if we can get everything put together,” he told reporters. He said the aim was to move the bill out of the committee stage by the end of February, which could suggest a vote in March.

Fast-track limits Congress to a yes or no vote on trade deals in exchange for setting negotiating objectives, although U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said on Wednesday any deal would still take several months to pass through Congress.

The senior Democrat on the committee, Ron Wyden, who has been leading talks with Hatch, declined to confirm the timeline.

“I‘m continuing to talk to them and I will leave it at that,” he said.

Critics of fast-track, who include conservative Republicans and many of President Barack Obama’s own Democrats, say the legislation does not allow lawmakers to properly scrutinize trade deals which could hurt jobs and wages.

Obama asked Congress this week to approve fast track and the White House has begun lobbying lawmakers to win support for the bill and major trade deals such as the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, targeting around 80 Democrats in the House of Representatives.

Reporting by Krista Hughes; Editing by Richard Chang

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