(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama says fast-track approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bill (TPP) will help advance his climate change agenda, which he said is one of his “highest priorities.”
“If we want to solve something like climate change, which is one of my highest priorities, then I've got to be able to get into places like Malaysia, and say to them, this is in your interest,” Obama told Kai Ryssdal, host of American Public Media’s Marketplace. “What leverage do I have to get them to stop deforestation?
“Well, part of the leverage is, if I'm in a trade relationship with them, it allows me [to] raise standards,” Obama said. “Now, they have to start thinking about how quick they're chopping down their forests and what kinds of standards they need to apply to environmental conservation.
“So, we have to engage, not withdraw,” he said.
Obama used the interview to push back against fellow Democrats who oppose the legislation and say it favors large corporations and hurts U.S. workers.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said at a June 3 press conference on Capitol Hill that opposition to the trade deal is growing.
“Our ranks continue to grow stronger and stronger, and with every week, more and more members are declaring against fast-track,” DeLauro said, as reported by the New Republic.
“We’re seeing here a tremendous upheaval in public opinion, because the public realizes that it’s time to fight,” Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said at the press conference.
But Obama said the trade deal would allow the U.S. – and the president in particular, if the House grants him fast-track authority through the bill – to make the “rules.”
“If we are not there helping to shape the rules of the road, then U.S. businesses and U.S. workers are going to be cut out, because there's a pretty big country there, called China, that is growing fast, has great gravitational pull and often operates with different sets of rules,” Obama said.
The bill before the House in its current form would grant the president the authority to finalize the trade agreement, which would then come to an up-or-down vote in Congress.
On the federal website page devoted to TPP, the environment is one of the highlighted missions of the trade bill.
“Environmental protection is a core American value,” the website states. “Through the TPP, the United States is negotiating for robust environment standards and commitments from member countries, and addressing some of the region’s most pressing environmental challenges.”
No timeline has been set for proceeding with the bill in the House, according to the House Radio and TV Gallery.