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US expects Congress to pass fast-track trade bill within next month

[SINGAPORE] The United States expects the trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation, which is seen as an important step to speed free trade deals, will be passed by the Congress over the next month, a US official said on Wednesday.

"We believe that the votes are there to move forward," Catherine Novelli, US under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, told reporters in Singapore. "We do expect it to be passed soon, within the next month or so."

The TPA legislation allows US lawmakers to set objectives for trade deals in exchange for a yes-or-no vote.

Delays in finalising the legislation are casting a cloud over a 12-nation trade pact many thought was near completion, officials close to the negotiations told Reuters last month.

Ms Novelli said she expects negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal to be concluded in a relatively short time.

TPP would link a dozen Asia-Pacific economies by eliminating trade barriers and harmonising regulations in a pact covering two-fifths of the world economy and a third of all global trade.

Ms Novelli said the United States does not oppose the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and understands the need to build infrastructure in Asia.

"There is plenty of room for everybody to participate in Asia. It is a huge economic space," she said.

China in recent weeks has convinced several US allies in Europe to become founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a sign of Beijing's rising stature.

REUTERS