President Obama on Wednesday pushed for passage of a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade deal while seeming to take a swipe at presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBannon reasserts influence in 100 days push Trump: I was 'psyched to terminate' NAFTA Trump: 'Major, major' conflict with North Korea possible MORE for perpetuating myths about expanding trade.
The president said the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will grow jobs and wages for U.S. workers and will put the nation ahead of China in the Pacific Rim, not the protectionist policies being suggested by Trump.
“Walling ourselves off from other countries, that’s not going to do it,” he said. “A lot of tough talk that doesn’t mean anything is not going to do it."
Obama didn't name his target, but Trump has suggested applying high tariffs on goods from places like China and Mexico and has expressed strong opposition to the TPP and said he would shred all other trade deals that the United States has negotiated during the past 20 years.
"That tough talk and promising to slap tariffs on imports from other countries won’t help the nation’s middle-class families to thrive," the president said.
Obama argued that the TPP is the way to realize that goal of adding jobs and raising wages by bringing the rest of the world, including China, into alignment with U.S. standards on labor and environmental rules.
"If you don’t want China to set the rules for the 21st century — and they’re trying — then TPP makes sure that we set the rules," he said.
"So the choice is simple: If you want to help China, then you shouldn’t pass this trade deal that we negotiated. If you want to help America, you need to pass it."
He tried to stifle the notion that "other countries are killing us on trade," and that in actuality trade has benefited most sectors of the economy — from agriculture to technology — broadly across the country.
“If you don’t like [the North American Free Trade Agreement] NAFTA, this TPP trade deal overhauls NAFTA with enforceable, much stronger labor and environmental standards, which means that they won’t undercut us as easily,” he told the crowd.
Obama blamed most of the losses in manufacturing and other U.S. jobs over the past decade on technology and automation, which now requires fewer workers.
“So we can’t put technology back in a box any more than we can cut ourselves off from the global supply chain,” he said.
He also touted how the United States in the past seven years has brought more trade cases against other countries for cheating than anybody else.
“Every case that’s been decided, America has won,” Obama said.