OPIOID SERIES:

Obama dismisses criticism of trade deal: 'I'm president and I'm for it'

Obama dismisses criticism of trade deal: 'I'm president and I'm for it'
© Getty Images

President Obama on Tuesday said he isn't giving up his push for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement despite growing opposition in both parties.

“Right now, I'm president and I'm for it,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “And I think I've got the better argument and I've made this argument before, I'll make it again. We are part of a global economy. We're not reversing that.”

ADVERTISEMENT
The trade deal is opposed not only by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFlynn to campaign for Montana GOP Senate candidate Trump considering pardon for boxing legend after call from Sylvester Stallone Decline in EPA enforcement won't keep climate bill from coming MORE, the Republican nominee for president, but also by Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge HW Bush wears 'book socks' to Barbara Bush's funeral to honor her passion for literacy Obamas, Clintons to attend funeral of Barbara Bush Hillary Clinton to fundraise in DC for public charter high school MORE, the Democrat Obama hopes will be his successor.

“I’ve got some very close friends, people I admire a lot, but who — I just disagree with them. And that's OK,” Obama said. 

“They're coming from a sincere concern about the position of workers and wages in this country,” he added. “But I think I've got the better argument and I've got the evidence to support it.”

The president voiced optimism that the deal could still pass during the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, when the deal won’t be used as “a political football.”

“Hopefully, after the election is over and the dust settled, there will be more attention to the actual facts behind the deal,” he said. 

“I will sit down with people on both sides, on the right and on the left," he added. "I will sit down publicly with them, and we will go down through the provisions. I would enjoy that, because there is a lot of misinformation.”

But the chances of the trade deal moving the deal through Congress after the election appear increasingly dim.

Democratic leaders in the House and the Senate, Nancy Pelosi and Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism MORE, both oppose the deal. Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' Chuck Todd lashes out at Fox, defends wife in radio interview Overnight Defense: Trump steps up fight with California over guard deployment | Heitkamp is first Dem to back Pompeo for State | Dems question legality of Syria strikes MORE (D-Va.) was a vocal supporter of TPP but reversed his position after he was tapped to be Clinton’s running mate. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanScalise released from hospital after planned surgery GOP sold Americans a bill of goods with tax reform law Impeaching Rosenstein? Some Republicans are talking about it MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Trump has not invited Democrats, media to state dinner: report MORE (R-Ky.) have both said they have deep reservations about the pact. 

Obama acknowledged there are “legitimate” anxieties about expanding free trade and the impact of globalization on jobs and incomes. 

But he countered that “trying to pull up a draw bridge on trade would only hurt us and hurt our workers.”

“The answer is, how do we make sure that globalization, technology, automation, those things work for us, not against us?” he said. “And TPP is designed to do precisely that.”

The president’s official visit with Lee was intended to boost the 12-nation agreement, which is a centerpiece of Obama’s effort to strengthen America's diplomatic and economic focus on the Asia-Pacific region. 

Singapore is a one of four original parties to the deal, and Lee is a vocal proponent. 

In an usually tough tone for a joint press conference on American soil, Singapore’s leader warned that the U.S. could do lasting damage to its worldwide reputation if it backs away from the TPP, since other partner nations made political sacrifices to ensure the deal got done. 

“If at the end, waiting at the altar the bride doesn't arrive, I think there are people who are going to be very hurt,” he said. “Not just emotionally, but really damaged for a long time to come.” 

- Updated at 1:50 p.m.