- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2016

Despite protests against free trade at the Democratic National Convention, President Obama said Monday that he’ll keep pressing Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal with 11 Pacific rim nations.

“I know that the politics around trade can be very difficult — especially in an election year,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with the Straits Times of Singapore. “But the answer isn’t to turn inward and embrace protectionism. We can’t just walk away from trade.”

Supporters of Sen. Bernard Sanders were vocal at last week’s convention in opposition to the TPP, and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has flipped her previous support for the deal. Her running mate, pro-trade Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, also has reversed his support of TPP and now says portions of the agreement should be renegotiated.

Democrats and their base of organized labor are generally opposed to the deal, saying it will result in the further loss of high-paying union jobs in the U.S.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he would rip up the TPP, saying it is “pushed by special interests who want to rape our country.”

Mr. Obama, who has been trying to complete the agreement before he leaves office, said he’s optimistic that Congress “ultimately” will support the TPP but didn’t give a time frame.

The president on Tuesday will host Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the White House, the first by a Singapore prime minister since 1985, to stress the importance of the relationship in his administration’s “pivot” to Asia. He said the rebalance of U.S. foreign policy toward Asia will continue in the next administration, regardless of whether Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton is elected.

“I’m confident that America’s foreign policy rebalance to the region will endure beyond my presidency because it’s in the national interest of the United States,” Mr. Obama said. “The United States has been a Pacific nation for over two centuries. That’s not going to change. That reality transcends election cycles. I’ll be handing my successor a strong foundation — including closer ties with Singapore — on which to continue building, and I’m optimistic that will happen.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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