WASHINGTON — President Obama said in his year-end news conference Friday that he believes the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is one of a few areas where Congress will be able to work on a bipartisan basis next year to get legislation across the finish line.
“It’s an election year,” Obama said. “Obviously, a lot of the legislative process is going to be skewed by people looking over their shoulders, worried about the primary, trying to position themselves relative to the presidential candidates, so that will make it harder. But I think there are going to be a handful of areas where we can make more progress. One of them…is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Congress has had a chance to review it and it meets the bar that I set.”
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 seeks to eliminate import duties, strengthen labor and environmental provisions, ease the flow of cross-border trade and strengthen intellectual property protections.
The battle for Congressional approval 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.
Obama said the TPP deal is the most “pro-labor, pro-environment, progressive trade deal in history.”
He noted that it eliminates scores of tariffs on American manufactured and agricultural products and exports to TPP countries that have maintained high tariff barriers in many sectors.
“This is a big deal and I think [House] Speaker [Paul] Ryan would like to try to get it done,” Obama said. “There are both proponents and opponents of this in both Democratic and Republican parties, and so it is going to be an interesting situation where we are going to have to stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort in order for us to get this done.”