President Obama
US President Barack Obama, with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi at his side, walks from a meeting room after making a last-ditch appeal to House Democrats to support a package of trade bills vital to his Asian policy agenda )REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Barack Obama has received a boost to his trade policy after the Senate passed a Bill that makes it easier for presidents to negotiate trade deals.

Known as the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or more commonly "fast-track", its supporters see it as critical to the success of a 12-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Bill was passed by 60 votes to 38 and now awaits Obama's signature.

Both deals have been opposed by trade unions and many Democrats, forcing the White House to forge an alliance with congressional Republicans.

"We were really pleased to see President Obama pursue an idea we've long believed in," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a long-time White House foe.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, a Republican, said the bill was "the most important Bbill that will pass the Senate this year".

The Bills incensed many Democrats, and pitted the president against his own party, forcing him to come to a deal with the Republicans.

Speaking before the vote, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown said the Bill would lead to "corporate handouts, worker sell-outs" in the way that he said the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) and other deals have done over the past two decades.

While organised labour and environmental groups have been some of the most vocal critics of the trade agreements, the administration and many business groups say the legislation is necessary so that trade negotiators can win lower trade barriers for US-made goods on international markets.