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Peduto Breaks With Obama On Trans-Pacific Partnership

Keith Srakocic

During his final state of the union address, Pres. Barack Obama once again called for support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who usually lines up politically with the president, said it is a bad idea.

“I do believe that if this trade agreement goes in, that will be the last nail in the coffin to, not only to the steel industry, but other industries in heavy manufacturing that are in a similar position,” Peduto said on WESA’s Essential Pittsburgh.

The office of the United States Trade Representative describes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a “new, high-standard trade agreement that levels the playing field for American workers and American businesses, supporting more Made-in-America exports and higher-paying American jobs.”

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama stressed that “(TPP) cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then support more good jobs here in America. With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region; we do.”

Many industry groups and companies, including Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries, have come out in support of the deal. But other businesses, like U.S. Steel and United Steelworkers, have taken strong stances against the pending agreement with nations such as China, Vietnam and Chile.

“The USW is unalterably opposed to the TPP, because it's a dagger twisting in the heart of American manufacturing,” according to a written statement from the USW. “The TPP provides incentives for U.S. companies to outsource production and offshore jobs - and that is far from the kind of trade policy America needs.”

Peduto agreed, saying it's a bad deal for Pittsburgh.

“I don’t have an answer to you, where I could say, ‘This would be a trade agreement that I could support.’ I simply know that this one is far too similar to the ones in the past that have taken a toll on this region," he said. 

The Obama administration had asked that Congress fast track the agreement, meaning it could not make any changes to the deal. That effort was defeated and the deal has not yet come up for a vote.

“Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it. It's the right thing to do,” said the president in the State of the Union address.

United Steelworkers Union President Leo Gerard has been working to gather enough "no" votes to keep the TPP from being approved.

“We continue to educate, not only our members, but also the public … and politicians,” Gerard said. “I’m fairly confident that the TTP won’t come to a vote this year, because the (supporters) are afraid they will lose it."

Gerard said the TPP is just one more deal in a long list of deals since NAFTA that will drive jobs out of the United States.

“What they have provided is a path for multi-national corporations to move to Mexico, or to move to Columbia, or to move to Korea,” Gerard said. “In fact, you don’t have to be a multi-national corporation.  Some have just picked up and moved across the border to Mexico.”