News Release

Obama and McConnell: Embracing Trade Deals Both Parties Just Ran Against

A Wall Street Journal headline claims: “GOP Victory Opens Pathway to Trade Bill.” ABC News reports: “At a post-election news conference, McConnell listed trade agreements and corporate tax reform as two potential early areas of compromise with the president. ‘Those are two very significant areas of potential agreement.’ McConnell said.” Meanwhile, President Obama stated: “We can also work together to grow our — grow our exports and open new markets for our manufacturers to sell more American-made goods to the rest of the world. That’s something I’ll be focused on when I travel to Asia next week.” On Sunday , Obama is scheduled to go to Beijing for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

LORI WALLACH, lwallach at; also via Alisa Simmons, asimmons at, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, which just put out the memo “What the 2014 Election Results Mean for Trade Policy,” which notes: “Both Parties Competed to Highlight Rejection of Unfair Trade in Competitive Races, Heightening Public Awareness and Further Complicating Obama’s Bid for Fast Track: Analysis of the most-watched races of the 2014 elections reveals bipartisan competition to align campaign positions with the American public’s opposition to current U.S. trade policies and the job offshoring they cause. A raft of ads spotlighting the damage caused by status quo trade policies has heightened constituents’ anger about damaging trade deals and the expectation that their newly elected representatives will reject the administration’s attempt to Fast Track more of the same deals.”

The group gives several examples of such ads — including McConnell’s U.S. Senate race in Kentucky: “Trade loomed large in this headline-grabbing race between McConnell and his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes. The Senate Majority PAC launched an ad that showed video footage of McConnell expressing support for NAFTA, and stated, ‘Mitch McConnell’s been tragically wrong about foreign trade deals. They’ve cost America over half a million jobs.’ Another Senate Majority PAC ad criticized McConnell for ‘pushing foreign trade deals that send Kentucky jobs to new homes far away.’ As his numbers plummeted in the early fall, McConnell’s campaign ultimately was forced to respond by adopting the same frame used against him, claiming in an ad that McConnell ‘fought against unfair foreign trade,’ despite having cast 20 out of 20 votes in favor of unfair trade since 1991. McConnell beat Grimes after running against his own voting record.”

The group also states: “The GOP takeover of the U.S. Senate probably reduces the chances that President Barack Obama gets Fast Track at all before his presidency is over or that a deal is completed on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). There has been a major corporate PR campaign to push the opposite narrative. However, a close look at the interplay of the actual politics and policy on Fast Track and the TPP show that the GOP election sweep may, counterintuitively, actually not promote the corporate trade agenda.”

On Fast Track: “The issue is not who is Senate Majority leader. The fight over trade authority is always won or lost in the U.S. House of Representatives. Recall that second-term Democratic President Bill Clinton lost a bid for Fast Track in 1998 in the GOP-controlled House with 171 Democrats and 71 GOP members voting ‘no.’ (Clinton had Fast Track for only two of his eight years. Indeed, in the past two decades, the only president to obtain Fast Track was President George W. Bush, and winning that five-year grant required a two-year effort at the start of Bush’s first term and a lot of political capital, after which Fast Track passed by one vote in a GOP-controlled House in 2002.) …

“The election results may also complicate Obama’s goal of signing a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal. …”