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Led by GOP, Senate hands Obama a huge win with "fast track" authority to negotiate trade deals

WASHINGTON - The Senate has handed President Barack Obama a major victory by approving "fast track" authority to negotiate trade agreements in Asia and elsewhere.The 60-to-38 vote on Wednesday clears the way for Obama to seek final language on a trade agreement with Japan and 10 other Pacific-rim nations. Congress can ratify or reject such agreements but not change them.The Senate granted Obama the same fast-track authority that previous presidents have enjoyed. The GOP-controlled House passed it earlier with help from 28 Democrats.The vote was a stinging defeat for environmental groups and for unions that say free-trade agreements kill U.S. jobs.Obama and Republican leaders say U.S. producers must reach more global markets.

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