- The Washington Times - Monday, February 22, 2016

President Obama said Monday he’s counting on Republicans and a small number of Democrats in Congress to help him approve a free-trade deal with Pacific Rim nations this year, despite “noise” against the agreement from presidential candidates in both parties.

Speaking to the nation’s governors at the White House, Mr. Obama said he’s relying on Republican congressional leaders and “a set of strong, pro-trade Democrats who recognize the importance of trade to their economies” to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we can still get it done,” he said.

The top Republican presidential candidates, as well as Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernard Sanders, are opposed to the TPP.

“The presidential campaigns have created some noise … and roiled things a little bit within the Republican Party, as well as the Democratic Party around this issue,” Mr. Obama said. “I think we should just have a good, solid, healthy debate about it.”

Labor unions and nearly all Democratic lawmakers oppose the TPP, saying it will lead to the loss of more union jobs in the U.S. Mr. Obama said he hasn’t been able to persuade his party’s union base of the benefits of free trade.

“The emotions around trade are still strong,” Mr. Obama said. “Labor unions — and I am a big labor guy, you know — they’re not happy with me on this. And no matter how much I indicate that the facts show this will improve the position of American workers, and we will slowly raise labor standards overseas as a consequence, they’re adamant in their opposition.”

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