GOP field divided on trade deal

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One of the biggest congressional issues of the year is President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Obama is pressing Congress to consider the deal in his last year in office, a year that will be dominated by the presidential race.

So far, only a few Republican presidential candidates are supporting the agreement.  

Here’s a look at where the field stands.

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The Republican front-runner has called himself a free-trader, but opposes the TPP as a “terrible deal” and an “attack on America’s business.”

Trump has repeatedly said those negotiating for the United States are idiots, and that he would do a better job.

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The Texas senator, who along with Trump is the favorite to win the Iowa caucuses, said in that state in November that he would vote against the deal. 

The Texas senator said he is “deeply concerned” that the TPP will undermine immigration laws and increase foreign competition.

“I believe we can negotiate a much better agreement with a strong conservative president than we have with Barack Obama,” he said. 

He split his vote on fast-track last year, first voting in May for the bill but then changing his mind on a second vote in June, citing his mistrust of Obama and Senate Republican leaders, who led the charge in the chamber to send the bill to the White House. 

Fast-track makes it easier to approve the TPP by doing away with the Senate’s ability to amend or filibuster the deal.

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Rubio, who is looking for a strong finish in Iowa and New Hampshire, voted for fast-track but hasn’t taken a position on the TPP.

His Senate office said he is still in the review process.

In October, Rubio said that he is “generally very much in favor of free trade” but stepped back from supporting the TPP.

During Thursday night’s debate, Rubio criticized Cruz for changing his position on fast-track authority.

Ben Carson

The retired neurosurgeon has said he supports the TPP despite his concerns about the negotiation process.

In November, the Carson campaign said that he “believes the agreement does help to level the playing field in key markets and is important to improve our ties to trading partners in Asia as a counterbalance to China’s influence in the region.” 

Carson is “now inclined to support TPP, with reservations,” his campaign said.

Jeb Bush 

The former Florida governor has expressed consistent support for the expansive pact. 

“I have no problem supporting TPP,” he wrote last year. “We've worked with some of our most important allies in negotiations to help make this possible — and asked them to take political risks of their own to open their markets to American goods, agricultural products and services.”

Bush has blasted Trump for suggesting a tax on Chinese exports, arguing that Beijing would likely retaliate. 

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The Kentucky senator staunchly opposed fast-track last summer arguing that it gives the White House too much power over trade policy and leaves Congress out of the process. 

Paul, who said he supports free trade, has yet to take a final stance on the TPP. 

John Kasich

The Ohio governor has said he supports the TPP, citing the economic and geopolitical benefits of inking a deal that spans the Pacific Rim. 

He slipped up during Thursday night’s debate, however, calling the TPP the “PTT.” 

“I’m a free-trader. I supported NAFTA, I believe in the PTT because it’s important those countries in Asia are an interface against China,” Kasich said.

Kasich has said that the deal could allow the United States to create “strategic alliances" against China.

Chris Christie

The New Jersey governor has said he supports free trade but opposes the TPP because doesn’t trust anything negotiated by Obama and his administration.

“Why would anyone in America trust the person who negotiated the deal with Iran to negotiate a trade deal that, in the balance, will hold the economic future of many American citizens?” he said in early November. 

His advice to Congress: “Vote no or don’t vote at all. And, wait for a new president to come in to negotiate a deal that would actually be in the interest of the American people and the interests of American workers.”

Carly Fiorina

The former HP CEO is another GOP candidate who said she supports free trade but is opposed to the TPP. 

Fiorina criticized the TPP trade deal last month saying that “these extremely complicated, multi-party agreements are not in our interest, because buried in the 5,000 pages negotiated with 12 other countries, are trap doors.”

When it comes to what Congress should do, Fiorina said:  “So, man up, stand up, and be prepared to be held accountable or vote this thing down.”  

“Let’s push all this off to the next president. It’s why people have lost faith in their leaders, honestly.”

Mike Huckabee 

Huckabee came out against the pact in October saying the White House crafted a deal where “once again, American workers are getting punched in the gut by Washington because this deal is a handout to insiders, interest groups, Obama’s allies and Asia.

“When it comes to negotiating with foreign countries, the Obama Administration gets rolled like sushi, and this TPP deal is more of the same,” he said. 

“I can’t understand why American workers would trust Obama on a trade deal that affects 40 percent of the world’s economy. President Obama can’t be trusted to negotiate a camper off Craigslist, let alone a trade deal with eleven other Asian countries.”

The former Pennsylvania senator said in May that he is for a TPP, “I just don't think this president will accomplish what we want.” 
“I would say let's put this off until the next administration, until we actually have a president who has some trust built up it Washington," he said. 
In June, he noted that he voted against NAFTA while in Congress and said that the TPP provisions "ignore some of the bigger problems, which is non-tariff barriers, like for example currency manipulation."
"Those are things that we have to start looking [at] and doing old style trade deals in a new style world in which the countries use lots of different things to disadvantage us."