“We can get it done this year. The key then is to get TPP through Congress. We should not assume that because Trade Promotion Authority was done, that we automatically are going to be able to get TPP done. … the reason is that the politics around trade are tough.”
Q. Trade Promotion Authority, and how you worked that and you worked it very aggressively. And, by the way, all of us in here — Mike Froman, I don’t know if he’s here, and Jeff Zients are very complimentary of the work that was done there.
So now you have the authority to get a trade deal done. It’s going to have to come back to Congress, and so forth. Talk to us a little bit about your view of the opportunity to get the Trans-Pacific deal done.
THE PRESIDENT: I am confident that we can get it done, and I believe we can get it done this year. The trade ministers should be meeting again sometime in the next several weeks. They have the opportunity to close the deal. Most chapters have been completed at this point. And I’m confident that it will, in fact, accomplish our central goal, which is to make sure that we’ve got a level playing field for American businesses and American workers in the fastest-growing region of the world.
There are going to be unprecedented protections for labor standards and environmental standards, but also for IP protection, also for making sure that when any company here makes an investment, that they’re not being disadvantaged but are instead being treated like domestic companies for commercial purposes.
And so the notion here is, is that we’ve got 12 nations who represent the fastest-growing, most populous part of the world buying into a high-standards trade deal that allows us and your companies on a consistent basis to compete. And the good news is, is that with a lot of tough negotiating and a lot of pushing and pulling — mainly by Mr. Froman, but occasionally I get called in to lob a call into one of my counterparts — I think that we’re going to get this done.
Now, the key then, once we close the negotiations and we have an agreement, is to get TPP through Congress. We got it through. I will return the compliment of Mitch McConnell worked very hard and very creatively to get it done. We should not assume, though, that because the authority was done, that we automatically are going to be able to get TPP done.
And I’ll be honest with you, the reason is that the politics around trade are tough. And I said this even in the run-up to getting TPA authority. A lot of Americans, when they think of trade, think of plants in their hometown or nearby shutting down and moving to Mexico or China, and American manufacturing and good-paying jobs being lost. That’s the image of trade.
And the argument that I have made consistently to Democrats has been that there may have been some mistakes made in past trade agreements in not, for example, having enforceable labor and environmental provisions that put American companies that are doing the right thing at a disadvantage; that there weren’t enough safeguards for intellectual property and the abuses of state-owned enterprises and subsidies that companies may have been involved with.
But that’s the status quo now. And if you want to correct those things, we’ve got to raise the bar. I didn’t fully persuade all my Democratic colleagues, because the politics are tough. And I was willing to take my case to the Democratic caucus and to talk to my friends in organized labor and say that we can’t look backwards, we’ve got to look forward. We’re going to have to compete in these areas.
Here’s the concern politically, is that I think within the Republican Party, a party that traditionally was pro free trade now has a substantial element that may feel differently.
And so the Business Round Table, I think — you know, you got to put Engler to work over there. To their credit, both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner I think are on the right program here, but they’re going to need some help potentially with their membership, because the closer we get to political season, the tighter some of these votes get. I will tell you this, though: I am confident that if I’m presenting an agreement to Congress, that it will meet the commitment that I made that this would be the highest standard, most progressive trade deal in American history. It will be good for American business and American workers.
Source: White House Press Office, Sep 16, 2015