President Obama was self-assured during a quick sales pitch to foreign business leaders Monday, saying he was confident that he could work with Congress to iron out trade deals and a budget plan.
“The things that help businesses grow are not partisan,” Obama said in his remarks.
Still, he and a key Cabinet member warned Republicans against blocking the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which helps foreign companies that need credit buy U.S. goods.
Obama faces partisan difficulties on both sides as he pushes ahead with the business-friendly agenda. A conservative group backed by the Koch Brothers launched a new effort Monday to block the Ex-Im Bank, arguing that it represents “cronyism and corporate welfare.”
The administration is also going head-to-head with members of the Democratic Party and typical supporters like labor unions as it irons out the plan that would free up trade between the U.S. and about a dozen countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America.
Some of the most outspoken critics are Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who oppose the administration’s goal of moving the trade legislation through Congress quickly because they worry it will threaten jobs and standards on food and product safety.
In an interview ahead of the President’s speech, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said it would be “terrible” if the Ex-Im Bank were to expire and argued the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is critical to the U.S. remaining competitive with Asia’s growing middle class.
“Today there are 550 million people in the middle class in Asia,” she said. “That number will be 2.7 billion in 15 years. The ability for our companies to be able to sell into the fastest-growing middle class market in the world is really critical.”
Vinai Thummalapally, the executive director of SelectUSA, told reporters that foreign investors are generally confident that the debate over the Ex-Im bank will die down eventually.
“In spite of the debate, it rarely comes up there’s this confidence that things will settle down, based on things that happened in the past.” for the most part, he added, “they’re amused, they shake their heads.”