Obama sees trade deals ready to move forward

President Obama discussed globalization and free trade at a joint press conference prior to the start of the opening ceremonies at Hannover Fair as well as the potential challenges and drawbacks for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).


Courtesy: Hannover

At a joint press conference prior to the opening ceremonies for Hannover Messe 2016, President Obama said the opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in Germany and in the U.S. overlooks the larger value of global trade.

"What you're seeing around the world is that people unsettled by globalization," Obama said. "While trade has brought enormous benefits, people visibly see a plant moving and jobs lost, and a narrative develops that this is weakening the economy. That is what drives a lot of suspicion.

"But if you look at the benefits in the U.S. or Germany, free trade indisputably has made our economies strong," her added. "It ensures our businesses remain the most competitive in the world. We know 95% of the world's market is outside our borders."

On April 23, there was a vigorous but peaceful protest in central Hannover in opposition to the TTIP. An estimated 30,000 protestors took advantage of the president's visit to voice opposition to the trade agreement, which is supported by Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel. It also has the support of Republicans in Congress, one of the few areas of agreement between Obama and the GOP. As it is in Germany, labor unions oppose TTIP.

Obama also said the political issues in the U.S. should not be a deterrent to getting congressional approval for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), where a tentative deal has been reached. "I am confident we are still going to get this done. I don't anticipate we will be able to complete ratification (for TTIP) by the end of the year, but I believe we will be able to complete negotiations. Then people will be able to see what will be presented. After the primary season is over, I think the Congress will be in a position to start moving forward. We've had a majority of members (of Congress) in the past willing to move forward."

Obama also said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership had aggressive protections in place to raise labor and environmental standards that do not currently exist in some of the countries that were part of the negotiated deal.

President Obama's appearance at Hannover Messe for April 24's opening ceremonies was preceded by unprecedented security measures to attend the invitation-only event.

Security for the event at the 3,000-seat Hannover Centrum began even hours before the 6 p.m. local time event. Invited guests, VIPs and the press first were screened at the Hannover Messe fairgrounds and then bused by police escort to the Centrum, where further screening took place. The fair was attended in prior years by Russian president Vladimir Putin, Chinese president Wen Jiabao, and last year by Indian prime minister Narenda Modi, security was tight, but transportation to the Centrum was left to choice and press was admitted with the show badge and a passport.Even before the protests, security was tight surrounding Obama's visit to Hannover Messe, the first by a U.S. president. Admission to the opening ceremony was limited to pre-screen members of the press, and final invitations were not sent until the week before the fair opened.

Security is equally tight for the planned walk-around Monday, April 25, where Obama and Merkel will visit three of the halls at Hannover Messe, including the U.S. Investment Pavilion, where more than 40 states will be represented with economic development leaders hoping to bring foreign investment back with them from this week-long trip to Germany.

Obama got a smile out of Merkel when he noted that the chancellor had a pretty good sense of humor during their private meetings. He also noted that the expectations of his work load slowing down in the final months of his presidency."I seem to be pretty busy," Obama said.

Noting that Germany has no term limits, Obama was asked whether he wishes the U.S. government did not have an eight-year term limit on the presidency. "I do not envy Angela Merkel," Obama said. "It is an extraordinary privilege to have this job. I feel that I can help somebody, somewhere, both inside the United State and around the world.

"But I have come to appreciate the wisdom of our Congress (in setting term limits)," he said. "I think it's healthy for a big diverse country like ours to have some turnover. To use a sports analogy, I've run my portion of the race; now it's time to pass the baton. Having said that, I'm glad Angela is still sticking around. She is to be admired for her remarkable endurance." 

Bob Vavra is content manager, CFE Media, bvavra@cfemedia.com.

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