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US Democrats Rebuff Obama on Trade Deals

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama greets lawmakers ahead of his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington.

President Barack Obama greets lawmakers ahead of his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington.

U.S. President Barack Obama is calling for completion of trade deals with Europe and Pacific-rim nations, but some of his staunchest opponents are Democrats normally aligned with him.

In politically polarized Washington, Republican lawmakers in Congress often oppose the Democratic president's economic policies, with Democrats supporting him. But the opposite is true on the trade pacts Obama wants to complete this year.

On Wednesday, several Democratic lawmakers rebuffed Obama's request for fast-track authority to complete the deals, with little say by Congress, that he made during his State of the Union address.

The lawmakers said the trade deals would bring cheap imported products to the U.S. made by vastly underpaid overseas workers at the expense of higher-paid U.S. workers who would otherwise be making the same merchandise.

Connecticut's Rosa DeLauro said Obama's request for the deals is misguided.

"He said they would bring jobs back to the United States and raise our wages. But experience tells us that trade agreements do the exact opposite," she said.

In his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, Obama said China will write trade rules in the Pacific region if the U.S. does not complete the trade pact with Asia.

"As we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage," he said. "Why would we let that happen? We should write those rules. We should level the playing field. That’s why I’m asking both parties to give me trade promotion authority to protect American workers, with strong new trade deals from Asia to Europe that aren’t just free, but are also fair. It’s the right thing to do."

Key Republican leaders, who now control both houses of Congress, say they are open to completing the trade deals, but final action could take months.

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