Rep. Erik Paulsen is doubling down as an advocate for free trade and said this week he is optimistic the Trans-Pacific Partnership can win congressional approval after the November election.
“I’m just really hopeful we’re going to be able to move this forward in the lame-duck session,” Paulsen said at a roundtable on trade in Bloomington on Tuesday.
Free trade in general — and the 12-nation Pacific trade pact in particular — have lost support among American politicians recently, with both presidential candidates voicing opposition to the deal and Bernie Sanders supporters applying pressure to Democrats who support it.
Paulsen, a Republican from Eden Prairie, said he’ll “continue to be a very strong advocate for a robust trade agenda” because 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside the U.S., 80 percent of world purchasing power is outside the U.S. and one in five American jobs is connected to trade.
“The benefits are just too great to pass up, and fortunately the facts are on our side,” Paulsen said. “This is something the average employee needs to be more aware of.”
The Pacific trade pact still has obstacles. One is that the deal removes legal protections for the tobacco industry, which has led to opposition in North Carolina, where tobacco is a major crop. Paulsen called the problem a “parochial North Carolina thing.” Another is that intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical firms will be shortened from 12 years to between five to eight years.
“The language is kind of muddled,” Paulsen said.
Paulsen said the Pacific trade deal has as many geopolitical implications as economic. China is not one of the nations signing the deal, and it’s important for the U.S. to write the rules of trade in the region, he said.
“A lot of these countries, it’s pretty evident that they want the United States involved,” he said.