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American Shipper

Obama touts benefits of Trans-Pacific Partnership

President Obama has taken a full-court press approach to promoting the benefits of the now finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership with the goal to win over the American public.

   President Obama has taken a full-court press approach to promoting the benefits of the now finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership with the goal to win over the American public.
   “What we can’t do is think that somehow, if we draw a moat around this country, that we’re going to be able to avoid globalization and technology, because frankly when you look at job loss and lost leverage, automation and technology has probably contributed more than trade has to that problem. The anxieties are real, the concerns are real, but the prescription is not for us to try to look backwards. The prescription here is for us to look forward, and that’s what this trade deal does,” Obama said in an interview with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal on Tuesday.
   Obama and his administration are particularly highlighting the immediate and future benefits to U.S. companies and trade from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact of 12 countries, including the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
   The deal was finalized in Atlanta by the TPP trade ministers early Monday. However, Congress and other national legislative bodies of the TPP members must sign off on the pact before it can take effect, and convincing everyday Americans that the deal is a good one would go a long way in that effort.
   “Now our goal is to make sure that everybody here in the United States is informed about it,” the president said. “We will be posting every dotted I and crossed T on a website. And Congress and the American public and all the constituencies that are interested are going to be able to review this thing and see that in fact this is the most progressive, high-standard trade deal ever crafted.”
   For U.S. companies, TPP’s ratification will immediately eliminate or reduce many tariffs and non-tariff barriers on their exports to the member countries. TPP also streamlines various trade facilitation and regulatory standards on imported and exported goods.
   The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a fact sheet today outlining the state-by-state benefits for agricultural products as a result of TPP. Trade with TPP countries accounted for 42 percent of U.S. agricultural exports in 2014, contributing $63 billion to the U.S. economy, according USDA.
   In the Marketplace interview, Obama said the implementation of TPP is about setting standards that will improve trade, but he noted some of them will take time to implement across TPP’s members.
   “Vietnam is not going to suddenly have the same standards that we do. Malaysia is not going to suddenly enforce environmental provisions exactly the way we do, but we will have raised the bar for them, and if in fact they have these higher standards, which means that they have responsibilities and costs for operating in those countries that are higher than they currently are, then I’m confident that we can compete and we will continue to see insourcing of jobs moving here, moving back,” Obama explained.
   When asked by Marketplace about the influence, if any, TPP will have on China’s market behavior, Obama said, “If they see that all their neighbors are operating at a high level, then I am confident that ultimately they will adapt to the rules that we’ve set up as opposed to us adapting or being locked out of these markets because they’ve set rules that advantage the old style of doing business.”
   The president also noted that the TPP will not make up for all the perceived mistakes made in past trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
   “This trade deal doesn’t make up for all the offshoring that’s happened over the last 20, 30 years,” he said. “I’m the first one to acknowledge that. But I can tell you that under my administration, manufacturing has grown faster than any time since the 1990s. And that’s not just autos, that’s across sectors. And part of the reason is because there are some things we’ve done to make ourselves more competitive, and we have also made sure that other countries are not taking advantage of us as much when it comes to the rules of the road. This is part of that overall strategy.
   “We’re not going to bring back all the manufacturing jobs that were lost. The economy is dynamic and is changing. More of it is in the service sector than it used to be. Unions have become weaker, and, frankly, companies have moved to a much more short-term approach to quarterly profits as opposed to long-term investment. All those trends have conspired to make it tougher on a lot of middle-class families, and the way to reverse that is to invest in education, invest in things like infrastructure that can’t be exported, train our workers so that they continue to be the best in the world, make sure we’re investing in research and development so that we can continue to innovate. And part of that is also making sure that we have access to markets and a reciprocal system of trade so that, since these folks are all selling to us, we better be darn sure that we’re selling to them.”
   President Obama added that rather than “fighting the last war,” referring to past criticism of NAFTA, the U.S. has learned from past mistakes, “which is why now we have enforceable environmental provisions and enforceable labor provisions,” written into the TPP.

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