Obama takes turn as 'America's pitch man' to help sell TPP trade deal

Mon Jun 20, 2016 2:32pm EDT
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By Ayesha Rascoe and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama made a plug on Monday for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to a group of 2,400 investors looking at locating business in the United States, saying the deal would help boost the global economy.

Trade has become a hot-button issue in the Nov. 8 presidential election campaign, with presumptive candidates from both parties voicing objections to the 12-nation TPP deal that Obama wants the U.S. Congress to sign off on before his time in office ends on Jan. 20.

Both the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns have tapped into populist skepticism about the benefit of trade deals on jobs and wages, particularly in the manufacturing sector.

Obama tried to dispel the economic gloom-and-doom coming from the campaign trail, extolling the recovery of the United States from recession.

"I don't mind being America's pitch man," Obama said in a speech at the SelectUSA Summit. "In seven months or so, I'll be on the job market, and I'm glad I'm going to be here. I'm going to get on LinkedIn and see what comes up," he quipped.

Obama argued that while there are legitimate concerns about boosting wages and improving working conditions, ultimately global trade can help connect people from around the world and reduce poverty.

"This is not just about jobs and trade, it's not just about hard cold cash," he said. "It's also about building relationships across borders. When your companies come together you help bring countries and cultures together."

American business lobby groups have been pushing the White House and congressional leaders to finish their work to ratify the TPP before the next administration takes office.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington June 20, 2016.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque