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Congress passes bill to revamp US trade

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] on Thursday voted in favor of a wide-ranging House bill aiming to strengthen US trade, sending the bill to President Barack Obama to be signed. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 [HR 644], passed [vote] the House of Representatives [official website] in December, with voting falling largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor. The legislation, which passed the Senate easily, is expected to be signed [press release] by the president despite significant disagreement within the democratic party about its virtues. Some democrats assert that the Senate-House compromise weakened the bill, especially in the language seeking to prevent China and other nations from manipulating currency to make their exports more affordable. Democratic minority leader Senator Harry Reid said the bill is full of "missed opportunities and half measures."

The US has been active in trade agreements of late. Earlier this month the US became one of 12 signatories [JURIST report] to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is purportedly aimed increasing the flow of trade between the nations in a manner beneficial for workers and large corporations. Members of the labor industry dispute the claimed benefits, arguing that job losses will result from the agreement as corporations will begin to send jobs to countries with less restrictive labor laws and lower costs. In June the House passed [JURIST report] the Trade Preferences Extension Act, providing assistance to workers who lose their jobs to international trade and renewing President Barack Obama's authority to negotiate trade deals on behalf of the country. It also establishes programs to increase trade between the US and Africa. In July 2014 the European Court of Justice ruled [JURIST report] that the European Commission was not being sufficiently transparent regarding negotiations with the US on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which, like the TPP, aims to remove trade barriers between the EU and US.

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