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VP of Tualatin-based Warco Products: Trade deal will aid in doing business in overseas markets

A free trade agreement that the United States has negotiated with 11 other countries would provide a boon to Oregon's economy, a member of President Barack Obama's cabinet said on a conference call with local government and business leaders on Tuesday.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, who was joined on the call by Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Ross Tamimi, vice president of Tualatin-based Warco Products, Inc., called the Trans-Pacific Partnership a “transformational” pact that “will create more opportunities for Oregon companies” in overseas markets.

Negotiations on the TPP were completed early this month and the massive trade deal is now awaiting congressional approval. Participating countries include Canada, New Zealand, Vietnam and others along the Pacific Rim.

Tamimi said his company, a manufacturer of automotive oils and fluids, does much of its business overseas but has faced obstacles in some TPP countries, such as high tariffs in Vietnam.

“Being added to the TPP and having the duty rates reduced would give our U.S. products a level playing field that it currently does not have,” Tamimi said.

“We're excited about it,” said Doyle, who called the Pacific Northwest “a gateway to the Pacific” and said Oregon will benefit from the deal.

While many Oregon politicians — including Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader, as well as Republican Rep. Greg Walden — expressed support for the trade talks, opposition from Democrats elsewhere in the country — especially in the Midwest and Northeast, traditional strongholds of organized labor — has been strong.

Asked to respond to the perception that the trade agreement could benefit states like Oregon while harming other states, Pritzker said that lifting high tariffs in other TPP countries on U.S. exports such as forest products and chemicals will benefit small and medium-sized businesses in Oregon and throughout the United States.

“I don't necessarily buy the (argument) that one part of the country's going to win and another part of the country's going to lose,” Pritzker said.

The TPP has also become an issue in the Democratic presidential primary race.

Frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who championed TPP negotiations as Obama's secretary of state, came out against the negotiated agreement earlier this month, saying it falls short of what she hoped to see. Vice President Joe Biden, a potential candidate, has publicly supported the pact, which is broadly opposed by labor groups whose support is seen as key in the Democratic presidential primaries. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whose candidacy is popular with the progressive wing of the party, is a staunch opponent of the deal.

As both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans, Obama will need substantial Republican support to ratify the agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and outgoing House Speaker John Boehner supported trade promotion authority earlier this year, but neither has said whether they support the TPP as negotiated.

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