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Obama had hoped an agreement could be reached on the trans-Pacific talks before he visited Japan and other Asian nations in April. But the trans-Pacific talks have been complicated by disputes over environmental issues and resistance in some Asian countries to a wholesale lowering of trade barriers.
Boehner, R-Ohio, taunts Obama by asserting that "trade promotion authority is ready to go. So why isn't it done?"
"It isn't done because the president hasn't lifted a finger to get Democrats in Congress to support it," Boehner said, answering his own question. "And with jobs on the line, the president needs to pick up his phone and call his own party, so that we can get this done."
A fast-track bill may be "ready to go" in the GOP-controlled House but certainly isn't in the Democratic-led Senate.
Little by little, the politics of approaching midterm elections are intruding.
"Neither political party at this point has any appetite for taking on an issue that would divide that party's caucus in Congress," said William Galston, Clinton's domestic-policy adviser when NAFTA was passed. "That being said, I suspect that very little is going to happen between now and November" on the trade front.
"Bill Clinton had to go against the majority of his own party, especially in the House," noted Galston, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution think tank.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman says that, regardless of the political season, the administration will continue to push for fast-track authority. Without it, "You can't negotiate (trade deals) with our partners and you can't implement (them) here in the United States," Froman said.
But Alan Tonelson, an economist with the United States Business and Industry Council, argues that "American workers on the whole have been leading victims" of such free-trade agreements, beginning with NAFTA.
"Rather than rushing to conclude and endorse new trade initiatives, Congress and the administration should first figure out how to ensure that they serve as engines of domestic growth and job creation, rather than of offshoring and lower living standards," he said.