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Obama: US, Not China, Should Set Pacific Trade Rules

FILE - Former U.S. secretaries of state meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the White House in Washington, Nov. 13, 2015.

President Barack Obama made a new appeal Tuesday to U.S. lawmakers to approve a 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal, saying the United States, not China, should set the rules for economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Obama played down an effort by Beijing and 15 other countries to create a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in Asia to compete with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that the U.S. reached with 11 other countries with shorelines along the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. leader said the prospective Chinese-led accord "won't prevent unfair competition among government-subsidized, state-subsidized enterprises," ensure a free internet, protect intellectual rights of artists and writers, or enforce high standards for workers or the environment.

He said, however, the agreement the U.S. helped broker would achieve such protections and lead to the elimination of more than 18,000 taxes that other countries have imposed on U.S. products.

Obama said that once the TPP was in place, "American businesses will export more of what they make. And that means supporting more higher-paying jobs."

Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement protest outside the White House in Washington, Feb. 3, 2016.
Opponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement protest outside the White House in Washington, Feb. 3, 2016.

Obama has encountered resistance in winning support for the trade deal, with many in his own Democratic Party opposed to it, including the leading Democrat looking to replace him when he leaves office next January, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The front-running Republican presidential candidate, billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, also opposes it.

In the midst of the contentious presidential and congressional election campaigns, lawmakers have set no date for a vote on the trade pact, but possibly could consider it at the end of the year, after the November election to pick Obama's successor.

"I understand the skepticism people have about trade agreements, particularly in communities where the effects of automation and globalization have hit workers and families the hardest," Obama said in the opinion piece. "But building walls to isolate ourselves from the global economy would only isolate us from the incredible opportunities it provides. Instead, America should write the rules. America should call the shots. Other countries should play by the rules that America and our partners set, and not the other way around."

Obama said, "The United States, not countries like China, should write" trade rules.

He said Congress should "seize this opportunity, pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership and make sure America isn’t holding the bag, but holding the pen."