Obama signs trade bills, warns 'tough' talks ahead

By Philip Brasher

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WASHINGTON, June 29, 2015 - President Obama signed into law a trade promotion bill that ensures new agreements can get through Congress without risk of amendment, but he warned that "tough negotiations" were still ahead before the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership is ready for lawmakers to consider.

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Obama also signed a bill renewing trade adjustment assistance programs and duty-free “preferences” for imports from poor nations. 

“I would not be signing these bills if I was not absolutely convinced that these pieces of legislation are ultimately good for American workers. I would not be signing them if I was not convinced they'd be good for American businesses,” Obama said in a short ceremony in the White House's East Room.

As he signed the bills, he was flanked by several cabinet officials, including Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and lawmakers who helped with passage of the bills, including the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Trade, Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio; Rep. Ron Kind, R-Wis.; and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.

Notably missing from the ceremony was the bipartisan trio that led the negotiations over the legislation: the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and the panel's ranking member, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and the chairman of  House Ways and Means, Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Congress is on recess this week.

Obama did not give a time frame for finishing the TPP, but he gave a nod to anti-TPA lawmakers who've complained that the pubic has been unable to see text of the trade deal that has already been negotiated.

"There's always been concern that people want transparency in those agreements. Under this authorization, these agreements will be posted on a website for a long period of time for people to scrutinize and take a look at and pick apart,” Obama said. 

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