Obama com­mit­ted to Pa­cific trade deal: Rice

The Pak Banker - - MARKETS/SPORTS -

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is fully com­mit­ted to push­ing for Congress to rat­ify the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship (TPP) deal de­spite anti-trade sen­ti­ment gain­ing steam on the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign trail, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san Rice said on Wed­nes­day. Voter anx­i­ety and anger over in­ter­na­tional trade and the 12-na­tion Pa­cific trade pact have helped pro­pel the cam­paign of Don­ald Trump, the Repub­li­can front-run­ner, as well as Sen­a­tor Bernie San­ders, who is run­ning against Hil­lary Clin­ton for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion.

"The pres­i­dent re­mains fully com­mit­ted to work­ing to achieve rat­i­fi­ca­tion on the US side and en­cour­ag­ing all of our TPP part­ners to move through their do­mes­tic pro­cesses to do the same," Rice told Reuters in an in­ter­view on Wed­nes­day. For Obama, the TPP is a legacy is­sue, and stand­ing firm on the pact re­as­sures other na­tions with high ex­pec­ta­tions for the deal. At the same time, it high­lights a divi­sion with Clin­ton, a close political ally, who has been grap­pling with Demo­cratic anx­i­ety about trade on the cam­paign trail. Obama's com­mit­ment to the trade deal means that it will likely re­main a hot cam­paign is­sue and ex­poses Clin­ton to trade-bash­ing rhetoric ahead of the Nov. 8 vote to elect Obama's suc­ces­sor.

San­ders has ac­cused Clin­ton of back­ing "dis­as­trous" trade poli­cies that moved man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs over­seas, and ques­tioned the sin­cer­ity of her op­po­si­tion to the TPP since she be­came a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Clin­ton had sup­ported the trade pact when she was sec­re­tary of state dur­ing Obama's first term, but later said she was wor­ried the deal would not do enough to crack down on cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion or pro­tect con­sumers from ex­ces­sively high drug prices.

San­ders' un­ex­pected vic­tory in the Demo­cratic pri­mary in Michi­gan on Tues­day sug­gests that his crit­i­cism is res­onat­ing with some vot­ers, and could spell trou­ble ahead for Clin­ton in states such as Ohio, Wis­con­sin and Penn­syl­va­nia. Trump's anti-free trade rhetoric and prom­ise to slap taxes on cars and parts shipped in from Mex­ico have also found sup­port among Repub­li­can vot­ers, help­ing him score a big vic­tory in the party' pri­mary in Michi­gan on Tues­day.

"There have been times - and this is one of them - where anti-trade sen­ti­ment has at­tained some salience in our do­mes­tic pol­i­tics as well as in other coun­tries," Rice said.

"There's been an evo­lu­tion over the decades in the na­ture of trade agree­ments and in the cal­iber of trade agree­ments. And I'm not sure that that has fully been ab­sorbed in the pub­lic mind­set or the political discourse," she said.

Obama has re­peat­edly said that the TPP will ex­pand mar­kets for U.S. ex­porters and has high stan­dards on la­bor and the en­vi­ron­ment that were not part of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment with Canada and Mex­ico.

Rice said pol­icy mak­ers face the chal­lenge of be­ing able to ar­tic­u­late the ben­e­fits of TPP and "to not al­low the sort of tra­di­tional ' old saws' of the crit­i­cal nar­ra­tive about trade to go un­chal­lenged, when to a con­sid­er­able ex­tent they're based on agree­ments of the past."

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