U.S. President Barack Obama campaigned for his international trade proposals Friday, saying the U.S. must make sure it «writes the rules of the global economy» or watch China do so instead.
«And we should do it today, when our economy is in a position of global strength,» President Obama told workers at the headquarters of athletic shoe giant Nike in the western state of Oregon.
If the Trans-Pacific Partnership is approved, the Nike company predicted it will create 10,000 jobs in the U.S.
Obama hails the TPP as «the highest-standard, most progressive trade deal in history,» with strong and enforceable provisions to prevent problems such as child labor, wildlife trafficking and deforestation.
Without such deals to put U.S. businesses and workers on a «level playing field» – subject to the same rules and conditions as other countries – the president said China would set the rules in a way that gives Chinese workers and businesses a competitive advantage over American firms and products.
«Free trade is not just critical for our present success. It drives our future growth,» Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker said as he introduced President Obama.
“We believe agreements that encourage free and fair trade allow Nike to do what we do best – innovate, expand our business and drive economic growth,» Nike said in a statement quoting Parker.
Obama has been urging Congress to grant him «fast-track» authority to reach trade deals more quickly, through a so-called Trade Promotion Authority bill that would regulate congressional consideration of the trade agreement with Pacific nations, as well as a separate agreement with the European Union. Members of Congress could approve or reject trade deals under the legislation, but could not demand specific changes.
Many of the president’s usual allies in the labor and environmental movements and a number of his fellow Democrats in Congress strongly oppose the TPA bill.
Those who oppose giving the president «fast-track» authority say Congress should not be required to subordinate its power to the executive branch of the U.S. government. They also oppose the proposed TPP, in the Pacific region, and the administration’s call for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. They cite earlier objections to NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, on the grounds that it does too little to protect U.S. workers and the environment, and yields too much legal power to foreign companies, in some cases.
Supporters of the Trade Promotion Authority bill say U.S. trading partners are not going to make their best offer in negotiations if they expect Congress to pick apart any agreements. White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the new agreements are an improvement over NAFTA because they include “enforceable” provisions to protect labor and the environment.