The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), whose members include some of Minnesota's biggest companies, came out in favor of the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Monday.

The free trade agreement "will open markets and put manufacturers in a much stronger position to compete in an important and growing region of the world,” NAM CEO Jay Timmons said in a news release. “Without such an agreement, the United States would be ceding economic leadership to other global powers, letting them set the rules of economic engagement."

The free trade agreement, under negotiation for years,  has undergone intense criticism since President Obama sought and received Congressional approval for so-called "fast track" authority in 2015 that gives the House and Senate an up-or-down vote but no ability to amend the deal.

The White House made details of the TPP public late last year.The massive agreement drew enough opposition in Congress that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) warned the Obama administration not to send the trade deal to Capitol Hill until after the 2016 elections.

Nevertheless, NAM, whose board includes members from Minnesota companies Ecolab, Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Cargill, came out strongly in favor as the new year began.

“We recognize this agreement is not perfect, and there are some principled objections to the TPP," Timmons' statement said , The association "will continue to work closely with its members to address remaining barriers, to raise standards, to promote the rule of law and to further level the playing field for all. Importantly, we encourage the administration to work closely with the industry, congressional leaders and the other TPP governments to address these key issues.

But, Timmons added, TPP is "a significant improvement over the status quo—for manufacturers and for the broader economy. It will substantially increase opportunities for the export and sale of U.S.-manufactured goods, which means more economic opportunities for manufacturers and for the more than 12 million men and women who make things in America.” 

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