President Barack Obama defended his trade agenda Friday during a press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, while acknowledging opposition from members of his own party to a deal that’s working its way through Congress.
“The politics around trade has always been tough, particularly in the Democratic party, because people have memories of outsourcing and job loss,” Obama said, adding that the country had learned lessons from these past experiences and new deals with Asia and Europe would have labor protections.
He particularly noted the strong opposition to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership have faced from a core part of the Democratic constituency: unions.
Obama emphasized the importance of the prior deal, noting that 95% of the world’s markets are outside U.S. borders, with the fastest growing markets in Asia. He stressed that it was imperative for the United States to have a role in shaping trade regulations so that American businesses did not get excluded from these markets.
He referenced the lack of American made cars in Japan, saying “The current situation is not working for us and I don’t know why is it that folks would be opposed to us opening up the Japanese market more for U.S. autos or U.S. beef. It doesn’t make any sense. “
Top Congressional lawmakers announced Thursday they had reached an agreement on a bill that would give the President the ability to “fast-track” trade deals.