Finance

Froman says trade remains bipartisan issue

The top U.S. trade official said Thursday that Republican support for trade is encouraging for the White House’s ambitious agenda.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said trade issues have always required bipartisan cooperation and will continue to need support from both parties in the next Congress.

{mosads}Froman said on CNBC the Obama administration has been “comforted by the messages we’ve heard from Republican leadership” that they want to work together on trade. 

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who is expected to take over as majority leader in the next Congress, as well as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and conservative Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) have expressed interest in tackling trade.

Froman and his team are negotiating a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with countries from Chile to Japan, as well as a deal between the United States and the European Union.

On Wednesday, Cruz spoke about the broader U.S. relationship with the United Kingdom, saying the two nations share a strong economic partnership.

The United States should pursue a free trade agreement with the U.K. if it votes to leave the EU in a projected 2017 referendum, he said during remarks at the Heritage Foundation.

“While the U.S. continues to pursue the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership with the EU, the lengthy and cumbersome process to negotiate this agreement, not to mention the possibility that the world’s sixth largest economy would be left out if the U.K. opts out of the EU, suggests we should be looking for other opportunities to pursue free trade agreements,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Obama has been ramping up his call for trade promotion authority, which would allow trade deals to go through Congress without amendment. 

While he is getting support from Republicans, there has been plenty of pushback from within his own party.

House Democrats say they have and will retain plenty of opposition to fast-track authority and TPP in the next Congress.

Last week, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said that the focus should turn from passing fast-track to the substance of TPP.

“So I really think that the key here has to be the focus on TPP and not trying to move on TPA now, I think it puts the cart before the horse,” he told reporters.

He said a focus on fast-track puts lawmakers in the position to support or oppose TPP before an agreement is even finished.

“The main way to signal other countries that there will be support of members of Congress is to deeply involve members of Congress in the discussion and the resolution of those issues,” he said.

“Moving TPA without a clear role for Congress and a clear understanding of these issues might well mean that TPA will fail.”

Jesse Byrnes contributed.  

Tags Fast track John Boehner Michael Froman Mitch McConnell President Obama Rand Paul Ted Cruz Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership
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