WASHINGTON — President Obama capped off a week of building the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with a meeting of high-powered current and former national security officials and diplomats on Friday, underscoring the strategic security and economic implications of the sweeping trade deal.
Obama convened the TPP meeting with a who’s who of former secretaries of state including: Madeleine Albright, who served under President Bill Clinton; James Baker III, who served under President George H.W. Bush, and Colin Powell, who served under President George W. Bush.
Henry Kissinger, the renowned American diplomat and former secretary of state for both Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, also attended, along with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen.
The meeting was part of the Obama administration’s push to garner support for the 12-nation TPP trade deal, which includes the U.S., Japan, Mexico, Canada, Vietnam, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, Chile, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand.
It was held on the eve of a weeklong trip that will take Obama first to Turkey for the Group of 20 summit and then on to the Philippines, where he will hold meetings with TPP leaders and other Asian countries and attend an APEC Leaders’ summit. His final stop will be in Malaysia for the ASEAN and East-Asia summits.
“I believe, and I think that we have some of the most accomplished national security experts and military officers in our presence here today — and they believe that our economic prosperity and our national security cannot be separated,” Obama said, according to a transcript. “And if we are going to be a serious player in this critical region of the world, then we’ve got to get the economics right and we’ve got to get the national security right. That’s why all of us agree that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that we have forged is so important and that it is critical for Congress to act.”
Obama said China and other economic competitors will fill the void if the U.S. does not help “create the architecture for high-standards trade and commerce in this region.”
“They will make the rules, and those rules will not be to our advantage,” he said.
The administration faces a difficult battle in getting TPP through Congress, where many in the president’s own Democratic party have voiced opposition and some Republican lawmakers have also expressed concerns.
“We are consulting closely with members of both parties in Congress,” the president said. “And we strongly believe that on a bipartisan basis we should get this done. As soon as the 90-day review period is completed and the new session of Congress begins after the Christmas break, I’m hoping that leaders in both parties and both chambers move promptly to get this done. It will be good for American business, it will be good for American workers, it will be good for our national security for generations to come.”