Obama Hammers Dems For Opposing Free Trade

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Peter Fricke Contributor
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President Barack Obama took a stand against his own party Thursday, telling a group of progressives that Democrats who oppose free trade “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

Addressing a meeting of the progressive group Organizing for Action, Obama said he wanted to “set the record straight” about why he supports free-trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which many Democrats in Congress, most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, strongly oppose. (RELATED: Trade Bill Puts Boehner and Pelosi Between Barack and Their Parties)

The TPP is a draft agreement among 12 Pacific countries — including the U.S., Japan, and Australia — that calls for eliminating tariffs and other trade barriers, as well as cooperating to create legal and regulatory coherence that would in theory make trade more efficient.

Republicans are largely on board with the deal, which the White House has been negotiating since 2011, but many Democrats fear that TPP would lead to outsourcing of U.S. jobs to countries with lower labor standards, according to USA Today.

Obama acknowledged that, “Trade has always been tough, and it’s always been tough especially in the Democratic Party,” but sought to reassure hesitant party members that TPP would not turn out to be a repeat of NAFTA, which some blame for increased outsourcing in the early 2000’s. (RELATED: Time to Finalize the TPP)

“A lot of [previous] trade deals didn’t include the kinds of protections that we’re fighting for today,” Obama noted, arguing that TPP “is the most progressive trade agreement in our history.”

Obama went on to assert that TPP has “strong provisions for workers, strong provisions for the environment … so when people say that this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

While Obama’s speech addressed the main economic concerns surrounding TPP, though, his efforts may not be enough to placate Sen. Warren, who complained in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday that Obama has not publicized details of the agreement, according to RT News.

Warren’s criticism is related to Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation that is currently advancing through Congress, which would allow Obama to present the deal to Congress for an up-or-down vote with no opportunity for amendments. (RELATED: TPP Fast-Tracking is Designed to Hide a Bad Deal From Americans)

“The president says he wants the American people to judge this deal based on the facts, but to do that, he’s got to make the deal public,” Warren told Maddow. “Otherwise the American people can’t judge it on the facts.”

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