Efforts to move forward on a package of US trade bills suffered a setback yesterday (12 May) when the Senate voted down a procedural motion to allow it to begin to debate the legislation.

The "cloture" vote requires approval by 60 members of the Senate, but failed by a vote of 52-45.

The four measures under consideration include Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), reauthorising US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), renewing Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), and renewing a series of expired and expiring trade programmes, including the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), and Haiti trade programmes.

Opponents of the bill are said to have highlighted concerns including its impact on US jobs, foreign currency manipulation, and disagreements over putting all the measures into a single package.

Media reports now say President Barack Obama is talking with Senate Democrats to find a way forward that would allow the Senate to proceed to debate on the trade issues.

The TPA, if passed, would likely pave the way for a fast track vote on the long-awaited Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being negotiated between the US and 11 countries including Vietnam. US fashion and footwear brands and importers say the pact is vital for US based firms doing business globally.

Retailer Gap Inc has put its support behind the TPA legislation, and US sporting goods giant Nike Inc has pledged to expand its manufacturing operations in the US – with the creation of around 10,000 domestic jobs – if "fast-track" powers are passed and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is finalised.