At a joint press conference with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan Tuesday afternoon, President Obama continued to press the case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and the Trade Promotion Authority bill that he needs to complete it. Facing strong opposition from within his own party, President Obama took pains to clarify several points about the deal, and notably refrained from taking the same kinds of hard shots at his opponents that have characterized the recent debate over the deal.
First, President Obama stole one of Prime Minister Abe’s questions to dispel the notion that the only reason, or even a main reason, for entering into the TPP is to prevent China from running roughshod in the region. “I’ve been very clear that TPP is good for American businesses and American workers, regardless of what China is doing,” Obama said, adding that “this is not simply a defensive agreement, this is something that is going to be part and parcel of our broader economic agenda moving forward. And when 95 percent of the world’s markets are outside our shores, we’ve got to make sure that we’re out there competing.”
Later in the presser, President Obama was asked if he had confidence that TPP could pass Congress, and he responded by more gently poking critics like Elizabeth Warren, who have decried the “secrecy” of the deal, and expressed confidence that it would ultimately pass:
“With respect to TPP, it’s never fun passing a trade bill in this town because people are understandably concerned about its potential impacts on specific industries but also the general concerns that people have had about globalization and technology displacing workers. We’re addressing those systematically. Here’s what I’m confident about: This will end up being the most progressive trade bill in history. It will have the kinds of labor and environmental and human rights protections that have been absent in previous agreements. It’s going to be enforceable. It’s going to open up markets that currently are not fully open to U.S. businesses. It’s going to be good for the U.S. economy.”
And because I always believe that good policy ends up being good politics, I’m confident we’re going to end up getting the votes in Congress. And Congress, by the way, will have a lot of time to review it when and if it’s actually completed. So this whole notion that it’s all secret, they’re going to have 60 days before I even sign it to look at the text, and then a number of months after that before they have to take a final vote.”
Just as Sen. Elizabeth Warren isn’t keeping it 100 on TPP, President Obama is stretching things a little bit here, although to a much smaller extent. TPP may very well be good policy when it’s finalized and submitted for public review, but that’s not necessarily the reason President Obama has confidence that it will pass. If he’s granted the Trade Promotion Authority that he seeks, the deal will be able to pass without a single Democratic vote. That President Obama is so confident Republicans will think this is a good deal is exactly why so many people are skeptical of it.
That skepticism, though, would be better expressed by examining specific objections to the known parameters of the deal, rather than trying to derail it with dishonest fearmongering.