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Secretary of State John Kerry was the Democratic nominee in 2004

He said he hopes TPP will be passed this year

Editor’s Note: The Axe Files, featuring David Axelrod, is a podcast distributed by CNN and produced at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. The authors work for the podcast.

Chicago CNN —  

Secretary of State John Kerry, who lost a close election to President George W. Bush in 2004, believes he was right to make a timely concession for the greater good of the country.

“I believe today I did the right thing. It was important for our nation to not question that and to move forward,” Kerry told David Axelrod on “The Axe Files” podcast, produced by the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN.

Kerry, whose narrow loss to Bush in Ohio cost him the presidency, said there were some who advised him to withhold his concession of defeat.

“You know it was very hard, obviously…because it was so close,” he recalled. “It was one state and we weren’t sure how many thousands of votes had been cast…and counted.

“But what I decided is that it was important for the country to know who their president was and to be able to move forward.”

At the final presidential debate, Republican nominee Donald Trump, who trails rival Hillary Clinton in national and some battleground state polls, caused an uproar by refusing to commit to accepting the outcome of the November 8 election.

In the hour-long conversation with Axelrod, taped Wednesday at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics, Kerry launched a vigorous defense of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multi-nation trade agreement awaiting Senate action.

Despite the opposition of both Trump and Clinton, Kerry said he hopes the Senate still will take up the TPP this year, if the votes are there to pass it.

“I think the sooner the better because other countries are waiting on us,” he said.

If the proposed agreement were to be rejected, Kerry argued, the damage – both to the nation’s economy and reputation – would be extensive.

“We will pay an enormous price going forward because we will have lost our leadership role in a whole region in the world that’s the fastest-growing region,” Kerry said, predicting that China and India would be among the winners of such a development.

Turning to the issue of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Kerry refused to rule out the possibility that the Obama administration would unilaterally release its own framework for peace before leaving office.

“I think we want to encourage the preservation of a two-state solution and our first choice is to try to do that with the government, with the prime minister [of Israel],” Kerry said. “I think President Obama is very, very concerned that, increasingly, pressure is being put on the capacity to hold onto that two-state effort.”

Kerry, who has led the administration’s Middle East efforts, cited Israel’s continued construction of West Bank settlements as corrosive to the prospects of Middle East peace.

“I’m not going to get into intent, but the fact is that it is a problem and it runs contrary to American policy under Republican and Democratic presidents,” he said.

To hear the whole conversation with Kerry, which also touched on his service in Vietnam, his time in the Senate and how the institution has changed in recent decades, the conflict in Syria, and more, click on http://podcast.cnn.com. To get “The Axe Files” podcast every week, subscribe at http://itunes.com/theaxefiles.