Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Promotes Benefits of Trade Deals ; Workers and Small Firms Are Focus in Push for Asia and Europe Agreements

Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Promotes Benefits of Trade Deals ; Workers and Small Firms Are Focus in Push for Asia and Europe Agreements

Article excerpt

The president scheduled interviews around the country to argue that American workers and businesses have benefited from previous trade deals.

President Obama, facing an uphill climb in persuading Congress to grant him the authority to complete significant trade deals, sought to ease concerns on Thursday that such agreements would help corporations at the expense of American workers.

The public relations push includes a series of programs to promote exports from rural areas and help more small and medium- size American businesses sell their goods and services overseas.

The president also scheduled a series of interviews with local television stations around the country to make the case that American workers and businesses had benefited from previous trade deals and stood to gain substantially from pending agreements with Asia and Europe.

"We want to make sure China is not writing the rules," Mr. Obama told KGW in Portland, Ore. "We have to get this bill done. It's going to be important for Oregon."

He also spoke to stations in Fargo, N.D.; Kansas City, Mo.; and Seattle.

"That sort of ground-level advocacy is something that I do think will persuade Democrats and Republicans, frankly, to take a close look at some of the trade agreements that the president is trying to broker," said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary. "The president continues to be confident that if American workers and American entrepreneurs and American businesses and American farmers are given a level playing field, that they can't just compete, they're going to win, and that's going to be good for our economy."

Republicans in Congress are putting the finishing touches on legislation that would grant Mr. Obama so-called trade promotion authority to present trade deals for a quick up-or-down vote, shielding the agreements from congressional amendments. The president needs that power, also known as "fast track," to push through the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade agreement involving a dozen countries that is near completion -- and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, another sweeping deal that is being negotiated with European nations.

"Getting these trade deals done will benefit our businesses and middle-class workers, not just in rural communities, but across the country," Bruce H. Andrews, the deputy secretary of commerce, said Thursday in a conference call with reporters organized by the White House. "Exports have been a key driver of our economic comeback."

Still, some members of Congress in both parties -- particularly the most liberal Democrats and the most conservative Republicans -- oppose granting Mr. Obama the trade power he seeks, worried about how trade agreements will affect American workers and loath to cede their ability to shape such deals.

And many lawmakers fear a backlash from their constituents similar to the one after the enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. …

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