WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said the rising anti-globalization sentiment in factions of both political parties risks a withdrawal by the U.S. from global economic competition and stymied growth.
Obama, speaking Monday in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, cited opposition to free trade deals by some Democrats and attempts by Republicans to cut the Export-Import Bank as evidence.
“There has been a confluence of anti-global engagement from both elements of the right and elements of the left that I think are a big mistake,” Obama said.
Obama spoke on the eve of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the White House, where the leaders of the two countries plan to talk about the remaining differences in their Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations.
As members of his own party object to the accord, the president repeated his frequent argument that China will step in to fill the void if the U.S. can’t complete the deal with 11 other Pacific Rim countries.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state and the leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, has declined to take a position on the trade deal or on legislation before Congress to grant Obama fast-track negotiating authority for the deal.
Obama didn’t criticize her for withholding backing for the trade deal.
“She said what she should be saying, which is that she is going to want to see a trade agreement that is strong on labor, strong on the environment, helps U.S. workers, helps the U.S. economy,” Obama said. “That’s my standard as well, and I’m confident that standard can be met.”
Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, successfully won passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 and she praised that trade treaty while he was in the White House and during the early years afterward. She cooled toward free trade as a presidential candidate in 2007 and 2008, as then-candidate Obama criticized the NAFTA treaty.