Treading Lightly in Trade Talks: 2014

President Barack Obama wants to work with Congress to get fast-track authority to help seal trade deals including a Pacific-region accord. He said so last night.

What he didn’t mention in his State of the Union address: The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal by name or whether he supports a recent bill to expedite the deal.

These are both Obama administration priorities. The White House was hoping to complete negotiations on the Pacific trade accord by the end of 2013. Now it’s trying to sort out differences with Japan as election season looms later in the year.

Sens. Max Baucus of Montana and Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. David Camp of Michigan — Baucus a Democrat, Hatch and Camp Republicans — earlier this month introduced legislation that would give Obama the fast-track authority he is seeking to help close the Pacific accord. But a wave of opposition on both sides of the aisle is rising against the measure, as lawmakers want more say in the pact before granting the president this privilege.

Obama didn’t say whether he supports the Baucus/Hatch/Camp bill, and he’s certainly aware that Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, has said he’ll introduce competing legislation.

Trade deals are a tough sell in an election year for any politician.

While the president made it clear he supports the Pacific trade accord and fast-track negotiating authority, his less-than-full-throated endorsement of either seems to indicate he’s hearing opposition within his own party.

 

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