September 16, 2016 / 3:33 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Obama enlists Republican Kasich to strategize on TPP passage

(Updates with Obama quotes from Oval Office)

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday engaged Ohio Governor John Kasich, a high-profile political foe, to help press Republicans to approve the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal before he leaves office in four months.

Obama discussed strategy for how to overcome domestic political angst over the TPP with Kasich, who fell short in his bid to be the Republican presidential candidate, and arranged for him to speak with reporters afterward from the White House briefing room lectern.

The unusual move was a sign of how the White House intends to make a final full-court push to persuade Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress to approve the deal in a “lame duck” session after the Nov. 8 election, where the TPP has been pilloried by both Republican and Democratic candidates.

“Right now, China is pushing hard to create their own trade agreement,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office, saying American businesses were at risk of being “cut out” of Asia, the world’s fastest growing market.

“I promise you that China’s not going to be setting up a bunch of rules that are going to be to the advantage of American companies and American businesses,” Obama said.

Kasich was joined by other business and political leaders, including former Republican Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, International Business Machines Corp Chief Executive Officer Virginia Rometty and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Ahead of the meeting, Kasich told CNN that he knew he would be criticized for meeting with Obama but said passage of the trade deal was vital.

“The two most vociferous opponents of the trade agreement are (Russian President) Vladimir Putin and (Chinese President) Xi (Jinping), one of the most repressive leaders in the history of China,” he said. “That in and of itself can tell you why this agreement is so important.”

Republicans traditionally have backed free trade deals, but their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has blamed the agreements for U.S. job losses and threatened to tear them up should he win.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the deal would not get a Senate vote this year, and House Speaker Paul Ryan has said he does not see enough votes for it to pass.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has also opposed the deal, which is unpopular with labor unions and environmental groups.

Obama has said he hopes opposition cools after the election. The White House has pointed to opinion polls showing most Americans support trade as a sign that the TPP could still squeak through Congress.

“If you’re frustrated about rules of trade that disadvantage America, if you’re frustrated about jobs being shipped overseas ... then you want to get this thing passed, you want to get this thing done,” Obama told reporters.

On his final trip to Asia earlier this month, Obama spent time reassuring nervous partners that the United States would finalize the deal. But on Friday, Vietnam’s parliament indicated it would not ratify the deal quickly. (Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jonathan Oatis)

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