Obama talks TPP in State of Union
January 14, 2016
In his final State of the Union message, President Barack Obama tonight called on Congress to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and to lift the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba and travel to the island nation.
But in limiting the list of proposals, Obama did not mention the two items on the agendas of the House and Senate Agriculture committees: reauthorization of children nutrition programs, including the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act with healthier school meals that First Lady Michelle Obama championed; or reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, with increased funding to fully enforce provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial services reform act.
Both TPP and improving relations with Cuba are part of a "smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power," Obama said.
TPP, he said, "cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs. With TPP, China doesn't set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it."
On Cuba, he remarked, "Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America. That's why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve the lives of the Cuban people. You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo."
The American Soybean Association said it "looks forward to continuing its cooperation with the administration to advance the Trans-Pacific Partnership as well as further normalization of trade relations with Cuba."
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ASA President Richard Wilkins, a farmer from Greenwood, Del., said, "We understand that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is going to be a heavy lift this year, but we are excited to continue our press to see it passed by our Congress and ratified. The promise of the TPP for soybean farmers is too great to accept anything less, and we are very encouraged to hear the president continue his focus on the TPP in the year to come.
"ASA supports the development of further trade ties in Cuba because of the proximity and promise of that economy, and we appreciate and welcome the president's persistence on the issue," Wilkins added. "Moving forward, we will only escalate our commitment to working with the administration and Congress to expand our trading relationships in all corners of the world."
National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson praised the president's call for lifting the embargo on Cuba, but said that the TPP "would fail to deliver promised jobs, markets and economic growth for family farmers and ranchers without enforceable rules against currency manipulation."
"Like many of the trade deals that preceded it, the TPP fails to provide effective enforcement tools to prevent competitors from manipulating their currencies and thereby bypassing trade rules," said Johnson.
National Foreign Trade Council President Bill Reinsch applauded Obama's remarks on the TPP and said the NFTC "believes firmly that the TPP is in our national interest – from generating economic growth to supporting jobs – and we call on the administration and Congress to address remaining issues to ensure that the agreement provides the most benefits possible across the whole of the U.S. economy."
While not addressing nutrition problems directly, Obama did seem to take on the proposals from House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and presidential candidate Jeb Bush that SNAP or food stamps should be turned into a block grant to the states as part of a discussion of income inequality.
"Food stamp recipients didn't cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did," Obama said. "Immigrants aren't the reason wages haven't gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It's sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them. And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who've figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America."
–The Hagstrom Report