Obama Urges Congress to Approve TPP ‘This Year’; Leading Presidential Candidates Oppose It

By Patrick Goodenough | February 4, 2016 | 4:17 AM EST

Trade delegates pose for a photograph after signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Trade ministers from 12 Pacific Rim countries including the United States have ceremonially signed the free-trade deal. (David Rowland/SNPA via AP)

(CNSNews.com) – After trade ministers from the U.S. and 11 other countries on either side of the Pacific on Thursday signed one of the biggest trade deals in history, President Obama called on Republicans and Democrats to approve it “this year.”

Obama said in a statement he would “continue working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to enact it [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] into law as soon as possible so our economy can immediately start benefiting from the tens of billions of dollars in new export opportunities.”

“We should get TPP done this year and give more American workers the shot at success they deserve and help more American businesses compete and win around the world,” he said.

Obama clearly has the November election in mind: Leading candidates in both parties oppose the TPP while the deal has supporters and critics on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

America’s 11 partners in the TPP, which has been under negotiation for five years, are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. All 12 countries must now ratify it.

At the signing ceremony in Auckland, New Zealand, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman expressed confidence that Congress would approve the deal.

“We are working with members of Congress, working with the leadership of Congress, educating everybody as to what’s in the agreement, addressing their questions and concerns,” he said.

“And I’m confident that at the end of the day, because of the strong benefits to the U.S. economy – which have been estimated to be over $130 billion a year in GDP growth, as well as more than $350 billion in additional exports – that members of Congress will see the benefits for their constituents and we’ll have the necessary bipartisan support to be approved,” Froman said.

Democratic primary frontrunner Hillary Clinton moved from backing the TPP while secretary of state – saying in 2012 that it set “the gold standard in trade agreements” – to rejecting it last July.

Her socialist opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, pledged last October to “lead the effort to defeat” the TPP.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has called the TPP “a horrible deal,” charging during a Fox Business Network debate last November that it was “designed for China to come in, as they always do, through the back door and totally take advantage of everyone.”

(Sen. Rand Paul accused Trump of mistakenly saying China was a TPP member although Trump did not exactly do so; TPP critics have warned that China may later join the original 12 members. Nonetheless, Politifact rated Trump’s statement untrue.)

Among the other GOP candidates, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been most supportive of the trade deal.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida voted last June in favor of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), giving the president “fast track” authority to negotiate agreements like the TPP. Later in the year he declared himself “generally very much in favor of free trade” but said he would need to understand the details of the TPP “before we can commit to voting for something. But generally, it’s very positive.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas voted against the TPA. After not taking a position in favor or against the TPP for months, he said in Iowa in November that he would vote against the trade pact.

Among others in the GOP pack, the TPP has the support of neurosurgeon Ben Carson (“with reservations”) and of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has called it “critical.”

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina last June voiced skepticism about the TPP, and also cited concerns that China could join later.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is on the record as saying he generally believes in free trade but that he has “real concerns about this president’s ability to negotiate anything that represents a great deal for America.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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