Dem mayors line up for Obama trade deal

Dem mayors line up for Obama trade deal
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Democratic mayors are lining up in favor of President Obama’s Pacific Rim trade deal, which is opposed by most Democrats in Congress and the Democratic presidential field.

The big-city leaders argue that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will create jobs and boost their regional economies. 

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“This is an opportunity to bring more economic and wage growth to our communities and the U.S. economy as a whole,” Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; and Tom Cochran, the CEO and executive director of the group, said in a release on Monday.

“We call on Congress to adopt TPP as soon as possible,” Rawlings-Blake and Cochran said. “This is an opportunity to bring more economic and wage growth to our communities and the U.S. economy as a whole.” 

The mayors group, which represents cities with populations of at least 30,000 and first endorsed the deal in 2012, said the TPP “will be a shot in the arm” for local economies that depend on exports.

The support from the Democratic mayors is notable given broad opposition to the deal within Obama’s party.

The two top candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonCastro wound up being right about US role in Latin America GOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency Sanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit Trump’s Treasury pick leaves Sears board: report Trump team mulls new non-nuclear Iran sanctions: report MORE, oppose the TPP. Clinton’s opposition is particularly notable because she praised the deal, while it was being negotiated, as Obama’s secretary of State.

It’s not clear if the deal will pass muster in Congress, where a House vote will be difficult because of opposition from House Democrats under heavy pressure from unions and other liberal groups to oppose it.

But the White House is trumpeting the support from the mayors group as an illustration that many politicians on the left, at least at the local level, support the trade deal as something that will help their communities.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanWhite House gives up on passing the TPP Froman: Congress can pass the Pacific Rim trade deal US confirms China has ended tax breaks for domestic airplanes MORE credited more than 100 mayors with helping to push through trade promotion authority, a legislative tool that makes it easier to move trade deals through Congress. Most Democrats in Congress voted against giving Obama the authority.

“Now, with this historic TPP agreement in hand, your cities are closer than ever to realizing its benefits. Together, we can get it done,” Froman said. 

Froman also vowed that the Obama administration would back them up with visits and help get their messages out about how the TPP affects some the nation’s largest cities. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is a high-profile Democratic opponent, but many other big city mayors representing Democratic strongholds back the TPP.

They include Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel — Obama’s former chief of staff — and Houston Mayor Annise Parker.

During their winter meeting in Washington last week, the U.S. Conference of Mayors adopted a compact calling on the presidential candidates “to join with us in supporting trade and export expansion through modern trade agreements, including the Trans Pacific Partnership.”

A core group of Democratic mayors — Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, Calif. — vowed to canvass Capitol Hill to win votes for the TPP.

Mayors see the benefits of increased trade “in real and concrete terms” and are willing “to step out and take an aggressive approach to build congressional support,” Buckhorn told The Hill.

Buckhorn said that the mayors plan to bring “a pragmatic approach to a highly political fight.” 

Many of the mayors represent port cities, such as New Orleans, or agricultural strongholds that are expected to benefit from the trade deal.

A number are also African-American, including Rawlings-Blake, Reed, Kevin Johnson of Sacramento, Calif., and Steve Benjamin of Columbia, S.C.

Not every Democratic mayor is enamored with the agreement — and opposition is particularly notable in the Rust Belt, where unions have seen manufacturing jobs lost to globalization. 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, argues the TPP will hurt his city’s steel industry. 

“I’ve watched several international treaties hurt the city and this absolutely would hurt, too,” Peduto said in an interview earlier this month with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 

“We’ve worked together on a lot of different issues but this is one we don’t stand together on,” he said of Obama.

On the other side of the state, outgoing Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter has touted the deal and has been an outspoken advocate for the agreement, arguing the pact will benefit all of Pennsylvania. 

Little Rock’s Stodola, who heads up the Conference of Mayors’s task force on ports and exports, last week called on Congress to approve the TPP deal. 

 “We’ve got the unique opportunity to have bipartisan support for this, and it is absolutely unconscionable that Congress doesn’t move this forward immediately,” he said at last week’s winter meeting.

Down in New Orleans, Landrieu recently got a visit from Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman to help sell the deal. 

“Expanded trade will strengthen our economy and ensure Louisiana’s position on a global stage,” Landrieu said during a roundtable discussion on Jan. 19. 

“You would think that Congress could get this done, and they could get it done quick,” he said.