Coverage: Obama urges adoption of trade deal
President Barack Obama went on a public relations campaign arguing that the Asia free-trade deal was good for the U.S. He also made the case that China would step into the void if the deal didn’t pass.
In an interview with Gerald F. Seib of The Wall Street Journal, Obama made his case for passed the Trans-Pacific Partnership and for fending off Chinese economic dominance:
President Barack Obama, facing a bitter struggle within his own party on free trade, warned that China will step into the economic vacuum the U.S. will create if it fails to complete and enact a proposed free-trade deal with Asia.
“If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules out in that region,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We will be shut out—American businesses and American agriculture. That will mean a loss of U.S. jobs.”
Mr. Obama also warned of rising anti-globalization sentiment in Washington, reflected in Democratic opposition to the trade agreement, Republican efforts to kill the Export-Import Bank, and congressional unwillingness to approve new rules for operation of the International Monetary Fund.
“What we can’t do, though, is withdraw,” Mr. Obama said, adding: “There has been a confluence of anti-global engagement from both elements of the right and elements of the left that I think are a big mistake.”
Mr. Obama and his negotiators are working to finish the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal among 12 Pacific nations, while also fighting to win “fast track” negotiating authority from Congress to expedite approval of the deal later this year. The trade agreement will be a topic of conversation between Mr. Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is scheduled to visit the White House this week.
But David Nakamura pointed out in a piece for The Washington Post that Obama was tailoring his message about the deal to the audience, with varying levels of success:
Pitching his Pacific free-trade initiative to business leaders last December, President Obama framed it as a foreign policy gambit: He mentioned the looming threat of China 18 times in remarks to the Business Roundtable.
Last week, while making the case to 200 liberal activists, Obama mentioned China only once.
Instead, in a 4,000-word address to Organizing for Action (OFA), Obama sought to place his trade pact alongside his signature domestic initiatives, including his health-care law, the auto industry bailout, student-loan consolidation and Wall Street reform.
The sharp shift in the way Obama is now presenting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation trade deal in the Asia-Pacific region, illustrates his biggest challenge as he tries to wrap up a late-term policy victory over fierce opposition from fellow Democrats.
His critics on the left are calling the TPP a job-killing, big-
business boondoggle aimed at satisfying K Street corporate interests. And that has put Obama under pressure to explain how the pact will help ordinary American workers and families. In his weekly radio address, he called the deal “vital to middle-class economics.”
But some in Congress aren’t buying the arguments, particularly populist darling Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Jessica Meyers wrote for The Boston Globe:
Senator Elizabeth Warren, as she ratchets up her fight against President Obama over a proposed international trade deal, is focusing sharply on secrecy and business influence surrounding the pact.
The Massachusetts Democrat and Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, in a harsh letter to Obama this weekend, accused the president of negotiating the accord with heavy input from corporate interests and lobbyists — while keeping the American public in the dark.
The salvo escalates a simmering dispute that turned public last week when Obama began openly feuding with Warren about her criticism of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a massive 12-nation deal that would encompass 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
Warren and Brown said in their letter that Obama’s administration has “kept [the deal] hidden from public view,” while “executives of the country’s biggest corporations and their lobbyists already have had significant opportunities not only to read it, but to shape its terms.” They demanded he “promptly declassify” details of the draft.
Robert Schroeder wrote for MarketWatch that the trade deal would likely add to gross domestic product:
Adding 0.2% to U.S. gross domestic product over several years is a “reasonable” estimate of the economic impact of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Goldman Sachs analyst says.
In a recent note, Goldman’s Alec Phillips says a preliminary announcement of the deal could come as early as this week — although negotiations may not formally conclude until at least this summer.
The U.S. is negotiating the TPP, a regional free-trade agreement, with Japan and 10 other countries. It’s expected to be a major topic of discussion when President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet in Washington on Tuesday.
Obama and his allies are making public arguments for giving the president the ability to negotiate a deal. The notion that without it, America would fall behind is likely one that will resonate with people across the political spectrum. And for many manufacturers and businesses, any way to boost business would be welcome. Whether Congress agrees will be another story.