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January 29, 2014 AT 8:08 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama's nod to trade in his annual State of the Union address reflects a delicate political dance and leaves the hard work still ahead in convincing a skeptical Congress to get behind free trade deals. Business lobbyists had hoped Obama would explicitly urge lawmakers to back a bill giving the White House authority to negotiate free trade pacts and put them before Congress for an up-or-down vote, without amendments. This so-called fast-track authority is a litmus test of support for two massive free trade deals currently under negotiation, which would create a network of nations covering roughly two-thirds of global trade.