Just a day after President Obama pushed a controversial free trade deal at the Oregon headquarters of athletic manufacturer Nike, Republicans made their own pitch on free trade.
"Trade means prosperity. More markets for American products means more jobs and higher wages for American workers," Rep. Tom McClintock, R-California, said Saturday in a video, introducing the benefits of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
TPA legislation that "fast-tracks" international trade deals through Congress will soon be up for a vote in the deliberative body, and several legislators in both parties are rooting for its swift passage.
The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act allows Congress to give an up-or-down vote on any trade deal the White House negotiates but prohibits lawmakers from adding amendments. TPA also gives Congress the ability to set objectives for any future international deals, including target goals for safety and labor standards.
The California Republican added that this congressional power is "the key to restarting America's free trade engine."
But critics of trade pacts maintain that such agreements rarely live up to their hype. Instead, progressives argue, free trade deals are likely to suppress labor wages, move American jobs overseas and weaken environmental regulations.
Many also believe that the deal will do more to protect corporate patents and copyrights than it will to protect workers or open markets for trade. Critics often point to the NAFTA negotiations under former President Clinton, a treaty later blamed for allowing companies to forego an American workforce in favor of countries with cheaper labor.
Conservative opponents have also voiced concerns that TPA will also expand executive authorities.
"Some on the right oppose it because they don't trust the president and his history of executive overreach," McClintock said. "Well, I don't trust him either. That's why I support this bill."
"Without it, he can negotiate anything he wants," the California Republican told viewers. "Trade Promotion Authority binds him to the will of Congress before the agreement is reached."
McClintock also assured conservatives that the GOP was "particularly concerned about illegal immigration."
"This bill forbids the president from making any changes to our laws, including our immigration laws," the Republican legislator added.
TPA legislation will come to a vote in Congress just as Mr. Obama attempts to gather support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which brings together the United States and eleven other Pacific Rim countries.
The president spoke Friday to a crowd at Nike, a corporate supporter of TPP.
"I know a lot of folks are skeptical about trade," Mr. Obama said. "Past trade deals didn't always live up to the hype. Labor and environmental protections weren't always strong enough ... We've got to learn the right lessons from that. The lesson is not that we pull up a drawbridge and build a moat around ourselves."