Obama recruits Albright, Baker on trade deal

Obama recruits Albright, Baker on trade deal
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President Obama has recruited Madeleine Albright and James Baker III to help sell his 12-nation Pacific Rim trade agreement.

The two former secretaries of State will meet with Obama on Friday at the White House with other current and former national security officials, underscoring the foreign policy aims of the trade pact.

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Albright served President Clinton, while Baker is a key figure from President George H.W. Bush’s administration.

Former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, all of whom served in Republican administrations, will also be in attendance. 

The meeting comes one day before Obama departs for the Group of 20 summit meeting in Turkey and stops in the Philippines and Malaysia, where he will promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Since the full text of the agreement was released last week, Obama has made an aggressive sales pitch to convince the public and lawmakers to back the deal, which is the most significant item remaining on his policy agenda. 

The sweeping agreement would set trade rules between countries, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Japan and Vietnam, which make up 40 percent of the global economy. It's a central element of the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia. 

Many Democrats and liberal groups are skeptical of the pact, arguing it would cause American jobs to be shipped overseas and that its labor and environmental standards are not stringent enough. All three of the party's presidential candidates, including front-runner Hillary Clinton, oppose the deal.

Republicans are traditionally more supportive of free trade deals, but several have expressed skepticism toward TPP. 

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has vocally denounced it as a win for China, which is not a party to the agreement. New Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who was key to passing the trade promotion authority bill as House Ways and Means Committee chairman, has not announced whether he will support TPP. 

Friday's meeting, featuring officials from Democratic and Republican administrations, is meant to show support for the agreement also cuts across party lines.