Obama ‘con­fi­dent’ about Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship ap­proval

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Lisa Mas­caro

“If we’re not set­ting the rules out there, some­body else is.”

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Barack Obama ex­pressed op­ti­mism Sun­day that his trade pact with Pa­cific Rim na­tions would be ap­proved by Congress, de­spite wide­spread op­po­si­tion for the 12-na­tion deal.

Democrats and Repub­li­cans have soured on the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship as overseas trade has emerged as a cam­paign is­sue. Hopes for pas­sage by the end of Obama’s term have largely faded.

“Look, the pol­i­tics of trade have al­ways been com­pli­cated,” Obama said in an in­ter­view with CNN recorded be­fore his trip to Asia.

Obama noted what he called a “vo­cal” seg­ment of the Demo­cratic Party, a nod to the pop­u­lar­ity of Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders and the in­flu­ence of la­bor union op­po­si­tion to the deal, as well as the emer­gence of a new “pop­ulist anti-trade sen­ti­ment” among some Repub­li­cans led by Don­ald Trump.

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion ap­pears un­will­ing to walk away from the years­long ne­go­ti­a­tions with its part­ners from Asia and the other coun­tries with­out a fi­nal push for the deal.

In ad­di­tion to po­ten­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fits from the deal, Obama sees it as a cen­tral el­e­ment of the U.S. ef­fort to counter China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence in East Asia and the Pa­cific re­gion.

“The Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship is a his­toric agree­ment, cob­bled to­gether among a very di­verse set of coun­tries, and the ba­sic ar­gu­ment is sim­ple: This is go­ing to be the world’s largest mar­ket. And if we’re not set­ting the rules out there, some­body else is,” Obama said.

“I re­main con­fi­dent that we can get TPP passed.”

The am­bi­tious trade pact was once viewed as a likely cap­stone to Obama’s sec­ond term, a rare chance to find com­mon ground be­tween the two par­ties, but the elec­tion year changed that dy­namic.

Even though Congress re­turns to work this week af­ter its long sum­mer cam­paign re­cess, any ac­tion in the House or Se­nate on trade re­mains nowhere near the top of the agenda. Most law­mak­ers would pre­fer to avoid the is­sue be­fore the No­vem­ber elec­tion.

Congress is ex­pected to con­duct a post- elec­tion lame- duck ses­sion, and those fi­nal weeks of­ten pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for last­ditch leg­isla­tive ma­neu­vers.

Obama is cur­rently on his fi­nal pres­i­den­tial trip to Asia, where he in­tends to re­as­sure global lead­ers at the Group of 20 sum­mit that the U.S. is not back­ing away from its com­mit­ment to the con­ti­nent.

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