World News Brief, Thursday May 14

Obama loses bid for "fast track" authority in trade negotiation; North Korean defense minister reportedly executed; US seeks ways to contest China's territorial claims in South China Sea; Nepal aftershock death toll rises; Eurozone economy grows; and more


Obama Push for Trade Authority Fails Test Vote

The U.S. Senate blocked (NYT) legislation that would have opened debate on giving  President Barack Obama trade promotion authority. Such "fast track" authority would strengthen the president’s ability to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade agreement with eleven Pacific Rim nations. The trade bill fell short of the sixty votes needed for passage, with a vote of 52-45. Only one Democratic senator voted (WaPo) in favor of advancing the "fast-track" debate. Negotiating the TPP has been promoted as a cornerstone of the Obama administration's rebalance to Asia. Both Australia and Japan expressed their hope that the vote did not represent a derailment (FT).


"The problem now is that failing to pass trade-promotion authority would be far more than a defeat for Mr. Obama. It would do great harm to U.S. national interests and the world economy. The Pacific deal is the best opportunity in decades to liberalize trade. A country that cannot overcome narrow geographic or business or labor interests, and that shrinks from global competition, is choosing national decline," writes the Wall Street Journal.

"Completing pending trade agreements in both Asia and Europe would strengthen each region’s commitment to the global order and boost our allies’ economic prospects, while boosting opportunities for American workers, our middle class. Not passing these accords would be seen as America raising a white flag," writes Mark Kennedy in Foreign Policy.

"The Obama administration needs to press harder on TPP members to improve their rights records—for real. The United States shouldn’t move ahead with the TPP until it can demonstrate more serious commitments to creating truly enforceable provisions on labor rights protections and better addressing human rights concerns generally. In the meantime, Congress should focus more closely at the specifics of the deal and exercise strong oversight. There is no need to rush, and with flaws this big, the stakes are too high," writes John Sifton in the Diplomat


North Korea Reportedly Executes Defense Minister

South Korea's spy agency announced on Wednesday that Hyon Yong Chol, North Korea's chief of the People's Armed Forces was executed (Korea Times) by anti-aircraft gunfire last month. He was allegedly executed for disloyalty and challenging the authority of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. China said it had no information (Yonhap) of the defense minister's death.

CHINA: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter requested (WSJ) options from his staff, including sending aircraft and navy ships, to contest China's territorial claims in the South China Sea, following recent reports of China's rapid land reclamation efforts to build up artificial islands. China slammed the Pentagon's possible South China Sea plans.

This CFR InfoGuide provides analysis and insight into China's maritime disputes. 


Nepal aftershock death toll rises

Eurozone economy grows

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