Republican sponsor of bill key to US trade agenda says won't pass without Obama's involvement

WASHINGTON – The Republican co-sponsor of a bill key to President Barack Obama’s effort to boost exports to Asia says it won’t pass unless the administration supports it more actively.

Sen. Orrin Hatch said renewing Trade Promotion Authority, or fast track, is “not an issue where the president can lead from behind.”

He complained that the U.S. trade representative is not testifying at Thursday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing on a fast track bill introduced last week, also sponsored by the committee’s top Democrat.

Obama needs strong Republican support to win passage for fast track, which allows trade pacts to be approved or rejected by Congress, but not amended. He faces some stiff opposition among fellow Democrats.

Fast track is key for passage of a trans-Pacific trade pact under negotiation with 11 other countries.