- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Conner Eldridge said Friday he opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, splitting with the White House on a trade agreement that’s come under fire from the top presidential hopefuls from both parties.

The former federal prosecutor announced his opposition to the agreement President Barack Obama negotiated between the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries, citing concerns about its impact on Arkansas. Eldridge is running against Republican U.S. Sen. John Boozman, who has not said whether he supports the deal.

“I support trade that is fair to all Arkansans, which is why I oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership in its current form,” Eldridge said in a statement released by his campaign. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership fails to address currency manipulation by other countries, it stands to raise the price of prescription drugs on our seniors, and I have serious concerns about its impact on working families and Arkansas farmers, particularly our state’s rice farmers.

The deal has been opposed by the top presidential hopefuls, with billionaire Donald Trump regularly criticizing the agreement as he seeks the Republican nomination. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her opposition to the deal last year after praising it as the “gold standard in trade agreements” while serving in the Obama administration. Her rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has been an outspoken critic of the pact, as have labor unions, environmentalists and other liberal groups.

Boozman, who was first elected in 2010, last year voted to give the president fast-track negotiating authority for trade agreements but has not said whether he supports the Pacific deal.

“Senator Boozman’s primary concern is creating and protecting jobs for hardworking Arkansans,” campaign manager Chris Caldwell said in an email. “What is important to him is not just free trade but fair trade and those are the principles that are guiding him as he continues to review the 2,000 page document.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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