Kerry Promotes Benefits of Landmark Trade Pacts

Pamela Dockins

Kerry addressed the national security opportunities of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a landmark free-trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim countries, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), an agreement being negotiated between the U.S. and European Union.

“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is about a lot more than just creating economic opportunities,” said Kerry during an August speech in Singapore. “It is about raising standards.»

The TPP agreement, a complex deal affecting about 40 percent of the global economy, includes rules for the international trade of drugs, cars and dairy products.

Critics, including labor groups, describe TPP as a net job killer. But U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said that the TPP would cut tariffs on U.S.-made goods and boost U.S. exports.

Ministers from the participating countries signed the agreement in February after more than five years of negotiations, but it still needs U.S. congressional approval.

President Barack Obama, who is serving his final year in office, is hoping it will be approved. But in Congress, it faces opposition from many of his fellow Democrats, and some Republicans, voicing concerns that it would hurt U.S. trade and investment, are indicating that they are in no rush to bring it to a vote.

In a March letter to Obama, a bipartisan group of New York lawmakers said they were “skeptical” that the TPP would “fare better than previous trade agreements.”

They cited provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) — the 1994 deal that created a mammoth free-trade zone in North America — and said those had resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in their state.

In a statement, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the T-TIP would “help unlock opportunity” for U.S. workers through increased access to European markets. It is unclear if the deal will be completed before Obama leaves office.

The T-TIP is a proposed deal between the U.S. and the E.U. aimed at removing tariffs, cutting red tape and reducing restrictions on investment in a trade area covering 800 million people. The pact is said to have the potential to create 13 million trans-Atlantic jobs.

The 12th round of T-TIP negotiations ended February 26 in Brussels.

Kerry’s California appearance will wrap up a weeklong tour that included stops in Bahrain, Iraq and Afghanistan. He traveled to California from Japan, where he took part in a Group of Seven industrialized nations meeting and visited a World War Two memorial site in Hiroshima.