Pretty photos, small companies: how the White House is selling TPP

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 07, 2015 8:48 PM

By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Crystal tumblers of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, on the rocks. Maine lobster and Maryland blue crabs, garnished with lemon slices. An adorable black Montana steer, staring head on into the camera.

These American-as-apple-pie images from a report released on Wednesday are ones the White House wants to spring to mind when Americans think about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sprawling 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal that President Barack Obama has to sell to the U.S. Congress.

But even as Obama's top trade advisers extolled the 18,000 TPP "tax cuts" on a conference call with reporters, they were quickly overshadowed by the political headwinds that will buffet its passage.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she rejected the deal, aligning herself with skeptics from labor and environmental groups who argue the deal will kill U.S. jobs.

Obama has said he is confident the deal will pass Congress, but he will need to count on Republicans for support. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, the influential chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has already said his colleagues have concerns and "quite a few" votes could be lost.

The White House will post the hefty text of the document on a website in the next few weeks, after lawyers have finished going over it.

In the meantime, it released a glossy state-by-state report to frame the benefits, complete with pictures and factoids.

Food figures prominently. Obama said on Tuesday that farmers, coming from every state and both Democratic and Republican districts, could help convince Congress to pass the TPP.

But North Carolina is represented by colorful spools of yarn, not tobacco plants. Republican senators from the tobacco-exporting state are angry about the TPP would let governments block tobacco companies from suing over anti-smoking measures.

Omitted from the report: any overt sign that big U.S. corporations, which have pushed for the deal, stand to gain.

Illinois is represented by a bulldozer, without mentioning Caterpillar Inc . Minnesota is illustrated with packaging tape, but does not explain that the headquarters of 3M Co is located in the state.

Instead, the report showcases small businesses like Colorado's Crazy Mountain Brewing Company, whose craft beer has been priced out of Vietnam, Japan, Malaysia and Australia because of high tariffs.

"If you were to get rid of some of these tariffs, all of a sudden, we become more competitive in the marketplaces out there," said Kevin Selvy, Crazy Mountain's chief executive, on a conference call organized by the White House.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)