Republican members of Congress listen as U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol.
 Republican members of Congress listen as U.S. President Barack Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol. - 
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Come January, Republicans will control both houses of Congress. Still, the new Congress and the White House might find common ground in a key area that could affect businesses and the labor market.

It’s trade.

The Obama Administration is negotiating two major trade deals now. The first is with Europe; that one’s called TTIP. The other is the huge, twelve-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.

These cover everything from intellectual property to tariffs, and much, much more.

A GOP controlled Senate could help those deals. Remember, trade deals have proved tricky for Democrats, especially when labor issues are involved.

“The Republican Party, for most of its history, was the protectionist party,” says professor Allan Lichtman of American University. “But for the last 30 or 40 years it switched and become a strongly free trade party. So I think the winds of free trade will be blowing from a Republican Senate.”

Now, Republicans aren’t homogenous on trade issues.

There is, however, an important way a Republican controlled Senate can help Obama with his trade goals.

It’s something called TPA, or Trade Promotion Authority. It’s also known as “fast-track” authority. It’s something Congress has to vote on.

TPA would help the Administration both negotiate and pass trade deals. That’s because, with fast-track in place, lawmakers can only take an up or down vote on a trade pact, without amendments.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not support such a bill. However, the new expected Senate Majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, has said he wants it.