Democratic trio set to sell Obama administration's trade agenda

A new trade effort got a boost on Tuesday with the addition of a Democratic power trio to sell the Obama administration's trade agenda on Capitol Hill. 

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire, and former U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk have joined the Progressive Coalition for American Jobs (PCAJ), a new effort launched by Democrats and progressives to push for free trade.

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“Gov. Patrick’s support is a major lift for pro-trade progressives," a Democratic aide told The Hill. "He’s a credible messenger with the rank-and-file progressive audiences that the president and his allies in Congress need to win over to pass TPA.”

Patrick said the United States must embrace global trade to see more robust economic growth

"I’d rather have the president and this administration work out the rules for doing so through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) than leaving it to administrations, at home or abroad, less sensitive to worker rights and environmental stewardship," Patrick said.

Gregoire said that passing trade promotion authority (TPA) is an important step for President Obama "to negotiate modern trade agreements that help grow our economy, support high-paying jobs here in America and ensure standards for workers and our environment.”

The 12-nation TPP is nearing completion and could be ready sometime this spring. 

But Congress is still looking to produce a fast-track authority measure that would speed through Congress any trade deals that reach Capitol Hill. 

Legislation is expected after lawmakers return from a two-week spring recess, which begins next week. 

"There is more work to be done, and as we increase trade with our global partners, we had better help shape the rules for doing so rather than leaving it up to other countries to set weaker policies without us,” Kirk said.

“Giving the president trade promotion authority is a key piece of building on that progress and laying the foundation for a stronger economy in the years to come.”

Amid the fresh push, fast-track faces a wall of opposition from liberal House Democrats and labor unions, environment and faith groups that argue it would rubber stamp bad trade deals that will create job and wage losses for U.S. workers.