If U.S. senators were asked to take a standalone vote on President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership global trade agreement tomorrow, without any changes, incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet of Colorado says he could not support it.
Bennet’s move away from Obama’s signature 12-nation trade deal, which the president hopes to push through Congress as a key part of his foreign policy legacy, is a new position.
Last month, Bennet told The Colorado Independent he didn’t know if he would take a stance on the TPP before voters start getting their ballots in the mail around Oct. 17. He said he said was determining whether labor and environmental standards are strong enough and assessing the impact trade has on Colorado’s agricultural sector.
During an event in Denver on Monday, he told The Independent that he hoped he could “figure out the things that need to be fixed in TPP.” Bennet also said he would much rather have the U.S., not China, negotiate the rules of the road in the Pacific Rim. He said he’s worried negative rhetoric on the presidential campaign trail about specific trade agreements is being conflated with an idea that trade itself is bad.
“My hope is after the election is over we can come together and figure out what makes the most sense for America, for our workers here, and for our geopolitical interests across the globe,” he said.
But Bennet’s office says the senator has a number of concerns about the enforcement of TPP’s labor and environment provisions that still haven’t fully been addressed.
“If there was a standalone vote on it tomorrow with no changes, he could not support it,” his campaign spokeswoman, Alyssa Roberts, told The Independent. “Michael still recognizes that trade is vital to manufacturing and agriculture in Colorado, and wants to see Congress work together on a trade agenda that benefits our state.”
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Darryl Glenn doesn’t like the deal, nor do the Green Party or Libertarian Party candidates in the race. Unity Party candidate Bill Hammons says he would be a “reluctant” yes vote on what would be the largest regional trade agreement in history.
The TPP “would set new terms for trade and business investment among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations — a far-flung group with an annual gross domestic product of nearly $28 trillion that represents roughly 40 percent of global G.D.P. and one-third of world trade,” according to The New York Times. Critics of the deal worry about runaway globalism and job losses in the United States. An independent study by the Peterson Institute for International Economics reported the deal would raise incomes in the U.S,. but not jobs overall.
In May, Colorado’s largest labor union, the state’s chapter of the AFL-CIO, declined to endorse Bennet for re-election because he had not yet taken a public position on the TPP, but voted for a measure giving Obama the authority to “fast track” negotiations for the TPP and other global trade agreements.
During an August debate in Grand Junction, Bennet said he voted to fast-track legislation that would grease the wheels for the TPP agreement because he wanted to give the Obama administration as much leverage as possible in its negotiations and because exports like wheat, dairy and other agricultural products are important to Colorado.
Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have come out against the TPP.
Obama has said he will try to push the deal through a lame-duck session of Congress despite controversy over provisions that would allow foreign corporations to challenge U.S. laws and regulations in what has been called a “private global super court.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Congress to pass the TPP, saying if they don’t it could damage U.S. credibility and hurt national security.
Allen Tian contributed to this report.