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Schumer says Obama should stop trying on Pacific free trade deal

In the aftermath of last week’s stinging congressional rebuke of President Obama’s bid for a new Pacific free trade pact, Sen. Charles E. Schumer said Monday he sees little reason for Obama to try again.

“I think it’s going to be hard to resuscitate,” he said during a meeting with editors and reporters of The Buffalo News.

Schumer noted that he usually supported free trade agreements during his days in the House of Representatives, but now expresses strong reservations. Indeed, he said he opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership for which Obama personally lobbied on Capitol Hill last week.

Obama’s efforts collapsed in Congress as he sought “fast track” authorization to negotiate a 12-nation Pacific trade agreement.

But as organized labor and other forces rallied against the idea out of fear of sending more jobs overseas, Schumer said more factors entered into the congressional calculus. China – though not part of the agreement – and other countries often ignore the agreements, he said, and dump steel or solar panels or other manufactured products on the world market.

The specter of a plethora of international disagreements stemming from such violations, he said, caused reservations even among Democrats who naturally call themselves allies of the president.

“We abide by the rules; they don’t,” he said of many countries signing on to trade agreements, adding that some revisions may still surface.

But he offered little hope for the overall bill’s passage.

“So I think it will have a rough time,” he said.

The House on Friday refused to allow Obama to negotiate it freely. Since then disparate political figures such as Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan have expressed optimism that the effort can be salvaged.

But Schumer, who is expected to head the Senate’s Democratic caucus in 2017, said he continues to worry that trade agreements lead to the loss of domestic jobs while undercutting the middle class.

“To me, the No. 1 issue facing America is the decline of middle-class jobs,” he said. “You can argue the bill would increase corporate profits, and you’d be right. But it makes it harder for good-paying middle-class jobs in America.”

email: rmccarthy@buffnews.com