WASHINGTON — President Obama picked up a key endorsement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on Monday as the National Association of Manufacturers came out in support of the 12-nation pact.
The backing from NAM gave the White House a big shot in the arm as it starts the new year and steps up its push to garner support from business groups for the trade deal, which is facing opposition from many corners, including the president’s own Democratic Party.
“After careful analysis, the NAM will support the TPP as it will open markets and put manufacturers in a much stronger position to compete in an important and growing region of the world,” said Jay Timmons, president and chief executive officer of NAM. “Support for the TPP, which allows manufacturers to be more competitive in a global economy, is in keeping with the NAM’s principles. Without such an agreement, the United States would be ceding economic leadership to other global powers, letting them set the rules of economic engagement in the region.”
Trade ministers reached a deal in October on TPP, which includes the U.S., Australia, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Chile, Brunei and New Zealand. The pact, encompassing 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, seeks to eliminate import duties, strengthen labor and environmental provisions, ease the flow of cross-border trade and strengthen intellectual property protections.
But the battle for Congressional approval in a presidential election year is expected to be tough.
All of the democratic presidential candidates oppose TPP and some of the Republican contenders have also come out against it. A large group of democratic lawmakers has also voiced opposition to the pact and some key Republicans have expressed concerns. But several business groups have endorsed it and the administration is counting on pro-trade lawmakers to eventually line up in support.
Backing from NAM could help Obama’s cause in gathering more support from Republicans, whom he will need to court to get TPP across the finish line. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not taken a stance yet on TPP.
“We recognize this agreement is not perfect, and there are some principled objections to the TPP, so the NAM will continue to work closely with its members to address remaining barriers, to raise standards, to promote the rule of law and to further level the playing field for all,” Timmons said. “Ultimately, the TPP is a significant improvement over the status quo — for manufacturers and for the broader economy. It will substantially increase opportunities for the export and sale of U.S. manufactured goods, which means more economic opportunities for manufacturers and for the more than 12 million men and women who make things in America.”