DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A bipartisan group of governors called on Congress to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Friday despite opposition from both leading presidential candidates.
The governors of Iowa, Virginia and Louisiana dismissed attacks on the agreement by presumptive nominees Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton as misguided. They joined with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, who is leading the Obama administration's efforts to sell the plan to a skeptical Congress and public.
The group spoke at the EFCO Corp. in Des Moines, a maker of concrete support systems that are used to build buildings and bridges. The governors are in Iowa for the summer meeting of the National Governors Association.
The governors said the family-owned business that employs 500 people was a perfect example of a company that would benefit from the TPP's passage. The company already exports to eight of the 12 countries in the deal, and would be able to compete for infrastructure work in developing countries such as Vietnam, Froman said.
The trade pact would more closely link the economies of 12 Pacific Rim countries, reducing tariffs on thousands of products and setting other rules for trade. Supporters say the agreement would increase exports and give the U.S. major influence over trade in Asia, warning that China will step in otherwise.
But the plan has faced criticism from the left and right. Breaking with the GOP's traditional support for trade agreements, Trump has criticized America's trade negotiators as incompetent and says the deal is bad for American workers. Democrat Hillary Clinton came out against the agreement after supporting the plan when she served in the Obama administration. Many on the left see the deal as giving large corporations too much power at the expense of workers and the environment.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a longtime backer of Hillary and Bill Clinton, said critics were unfairly blaming trade for the loss of jobs. But he said the reality was that American companies cannot create more jobs without opening up additional markets for their products.
"The rhetoric in this presidential campaign has been so over the top," he said. He predicted that, "once we get through the presidential election, more common sense will prevail."
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said his state's large agricultural industry would be among the biggest winners in the deal. The state's pork and poultry producers and corn and soybean farmers say the agreement would mean far more exports, rising incomes and more jobs.
Branstad said the agreement wasn't perfect but would help "break down these barriers and open up markets."
"When we do that, we benefit," he said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards noted that his state has the largest port complex in the U.S., which would benefit from an increase in exports of agricultural and manufacturing products.
"It's a big deal for Louisiana," he said.
About 20 governors gathered at a Des Moines convention center for meetings all day Friday, where they called for action to address the growing number of overdose deaths caused by addictions to prescription pain relievers and heroin.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said that states were starting to figure out approaches that work, but still have "miles to go" to fixing a crisis in which 78 Americans die from overdoses every day. He and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan released a policy road map that outlines strategies designed to tackle the problem.
They include additional education and training for medical personnel on opioid therapy, requiring doctors to use state prescription drug monitoring databases and promoting treatment and recovery services.
Gov. Daniel Malloy of Connecticut said he worried the states' response was lagging behind the fast-moving epidemic. He said that in his state, many users have shifted away from prescription painkillers to cheaper and more potent alternatives, including heroin and fentanyl.