WASHINGTON, June 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Obama signed laws giving him fast-track trade authority and granting workers assistance on Monday, saying they give the United States a "competitive edge in this new economy."
Obama signed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which will allow him to finish negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would tie the economies of countries of Asia's Pacific Rim to those of the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru and Chile to give the United States increased influence throughout the region.
"This legislation will help turn global trade -- which can often be a race to the bottom -- into a race to the top," he said Monday at the signing ceremony. "It will reinforce America's leadership role in the world -- in Asia, and in Europe, and beyond. If I didn't believe it, I wouldn't have fought so hard to get these things done."
Obama also put his signature on the Trade Adjustment Assistance act, which offers retraining and other benefits to U.S. workers displaced by global trade agreements.
"It gives us new tools to help American steelworkers and folks in other critical industries fight against unfair practices by other countries," he said. "It also reauthorizes AGOA, the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which has had strong bipartisan support for many years now, and which helps open up markets in Africa to American businesses while making it easier for African businesses to sell their products in America."
The passage of the two bills was hard-won with multiple debates and both being declared dead at one point. Obama applauded Congress for passing both pieces of legislation, saying Monday's ceremony was "a truly bipartisan bill signing."
"And although there are going to be disagreements between the parties on particular elements, I think what we can agree on is that in this country, if you work hard, you should be able to get ahead no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love," he said.