Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Deal on Pacific Trade Falters

Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Deal on Pacific Trade Falters

Article excerpt

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the president's last priority before Congress, has taken a serious political beating during the presidential campaign.

For the most part, the 2016 campaign spectacle has benefited President Obama.

The Democratic incumbent, no longer the center of conflict, has seen his approval ratings edge up toward 50 percent and beyond. The unruly Republican brawl flatters Mr. Obama's temperate demeanor by comparison, while increasing the odds that his party can hold on to the White House in November and safeguard his legacy.

Yet there's an important exception. The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, a linchpin of Mr. Obama's "pivot" toward Asia for American economic and foreign policy, represents his top remaining priority before Congress. And the accord has taken a serious political beating.

One by one, mainstream Republican candidates reflecting the party establishment's modern pro-trade consensus have fallen. Donald J. Trump, who calls the accord a "terrible deal," vanquished them in part by rallying blue-collar Republicans behind his message that international trade was to blame for economic problems.

Mr. Trump's top challenger, Ted Cruz, reversed course to oppose the "trade promotion authority" that let the Obama administration complete negotiations.

The only remaining Republican who backs the deal, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, has been mathematically eliminated from a first- ballot nomination at the Republican convention.

The blows have also come from fellow Democrats, cheered on by union allies.

As Mr. Obama's secretary of state, Hillary Clinton praised the trade agreement as "the gold standard" for lowering tariffs and other trade barriers while protecting workers and the environment.

After leaving that job, she watched former colleagues -- many of them allies from her husband's administration -- complete the negotiations. In the meantime, however, she ran into unexpectedly tough primary opposition. Bernie Sanders, a relentless critic of income inequality and stagnant wages, condemned the final deal as a victory for "Wall Street and big corporations" when it was concluded on Oct. 5. Two days later, Mrs. …

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