For opponents of President Barack Obama’s trade plans, it’s a classic case of an old refrain: He was for it before he was against it.
Obama says he will veto any fast-track trade bill that would punish China for manipulating its currency.
But as a U.S. senator in 2007, he thought it was a good idea.
When President George W. Bush asked Congress to pass a fast-track bill, Obama wrote a letter to the Treasury Department, saying the Bush administration’s refusal to take action against China’s currency manipulation would make it more difficult for Congress to approve the request.
"Treasury’s refusal even to acknowledge the costs of Chinese currency manipulation justifies the fear of many Americans that this administration lacks the will to stand up against trade abuses and labor or environmental violations that create an unfair playing field for American workers," Obama wrote.
Under a fast-track bill that the Senate could vote on Thursday, Congress would set the rules of debate for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact. If it’s approved, members could not filibuster or amend the trade agreement once it’s negotiated and submitted for approval.
Many members of Congress want the administration to get tougher on currency manipulation, saying it gives foreign countries an unfair advantage by making it cheaper for them to export their products to the United States.
The White House says no currency manipulation language is needed in the bill and that it would be regarded as a poison pill that would kill the legislation.
At the White House on Tuesday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration has already done a good job advocating for fair currency policies in multilateral meetings.
"And we have had some success when it comes to China," he said. " Their currency has appreciated about 30 percent over the last five years or so. That’s an indication that the advocacy of American officials has been effective.”