It is not just President Barack Obama’s trade agenda that hangs in the balance. The Senate’s rebuff to his request for a vote on the fast-track negotiating authority also casts doubt on his “pivot to Asia”. The White House downplayed the defeat as a “procedural snafu”.
It insists common sense will prevail. But the goal of enacting Trade Promotion Authority — an essential step to wrapping up both the Pacific and transatlantic deals — is starting to look arduous.
The Senate was supposed to be the easy part. Moreover, Mr Obama’s toughest opponents are within his own party — a new challenge after years of grappling with reflex Republican obstructionism. What remains of his trade agenda will depend on persuading Democrats to climb down and keeping Republicans onside.
It also poses a test of America’s authority in an era of geopolitical rivalry. China does not suffer from procedural mishaps. Mr Obama must retrieve the initiative.
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