Harry Reid Publicly Breaks With Obama on Trade

Image: Harry Reid Publicly Breaks With Obama on Trade

Thursday, 30 Jan 2014 07:38 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid openly broke with President Barack Obama over trade policy, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The paper described the Nevada Democrat's decision not to support Congress giving the executive branch fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals with Europe and Asia as a "body blow" to the administration's economic agenda.

In his State of the Union address, Obama said that new trade partnerships with Europe and Asia would help create jobs by eliminating tariffs.

Reid and other Democrats fear that any such agreements would put American jobs at risk. Democrats say exporters are at a disadvantage because of higher American labor costs and stricter environmental rules, the Journal reported.

In saying he was against fast-track, Reid is siding with Nevada's union members who could be harmed by a deal. The majority leader's position, which does not come as a surprise, places him on the same side as tea party-aligned Republicans, the Journal reported.

Both liberal and conservative lawmakers are wary of any trade agreement that could cost jobs.

Fast-track is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and mainstream Republicans, including Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio. He said the lack of fast-track authority has held up trade agreements for seven years.

"That puts us on the sidelines," Portman said, according to Roll Call.

European and Asian negotiators are unlikely to agree to a deal they work out with their American counterparts if U.S. lawmakers remain empowered to subsequently make changes, the Journal reported.

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