President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with leaders from the Trans-Pacific Partnership at the US Embassy in Beijing on Nov. 10, 2014.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images
By Maya Rhodan
June 3, 2015

Correction appended, June 4

President Obama said China had been “putting out feelers” to join a pending trade pact with countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Obama has often used China as a sticking point in his sales pitches for the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership over the past several months. China is not one of the 11 countries involved and Obama has often said the deal itself is necessary to keep China, which has the world’s second largest economy, from writing the rules on trade in the Asia-Pacific region.

But on Wednesday, he hinted that the country may be interested in joining the deal in response to a question posed by Kai Ryssdal, the host of American Public Media’s Marketplace podcast.

“They’ve already started putting out feelers about the possibilities of them participating at some point,” he said, adding vaguely that China had reached out to “us, to Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary.” Later on Wednesday, Obama is scheduled to meet with the Treasury Secretary in a closed-door meeting at the White House.

Obama also said Wednesday that if the deal is reached and countries in the Asia-Pacific region are agreeing to higher labor, environmental, and non-discrimination standards, “then China is going to have to at least take those international norms into account.”

The interview Wednesday was one of five conducted from the White House in an effort to round up support for the president’s trade promotion authority, which would give him a “fast-track” to push the deal through.

Later in the interview with Ryssdal, Obama said there are “a lot more winners than loser” in the deal, which has faced the fiercest backlash from members of his own party.

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the program Marketplace. It is produced by American Public Media.


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