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The President's Weekly Address

April 25, 2015

Hi, everybody. I've talked a lot lately about why new trade deals are important to our economy. Today I want to talk about why new trade deals are important to our values. They're vital to middle class economics: the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

These are simple values. They're American values. And we strive to make sure our own economy lives up to them, especially after a financial crisis brought about by recklessness and greed. But we also live in a world where our workers have to compete on a global scale, right now on an uneven playing field, where the rules are different. And that's why America has to write the rules of the global economy: so that our workers can compete on a level playing field.

I understand why a lot of people are skeptical of trade deals. Past deals didn't always live up to the hype. They didn't include the kind of protections we're fighting for today.

We have lessons to learn from the past, and we have learned them. But trying to stop a global economy at our shores isn't one of those lessons. We can't surrender to the future, because we are meant to win the future. If America doesn't shape the rules of the global economy today, to benefit our workers, while our economy is in a position of new global strength, then China will write those rules. I've seen towns where manufacturing collapsed, plants closed down, and jobs dried up. And I refuse to accept that for our workers. Because I know when the playing field is level, nobody can beat us.

That's why, when I took office, we started thinking about how to revamp trade in a way that actually works for American workers. And that's what we've done with a new trade partnership we're negotiating in the Asia-Pacific, home to the world's fastest growing markets.

It's the highest-standard trade agreement in history. It's got strong provisions for workers and the environment, provisions that, unlike in past agreements, are actually enforceable. If you want in, you have to meet these standards. If you don't, then you're out. Once you're a part of this partnership, if you violate your responsibilities, there are actual consequences. And because it would include Canada and Mexico, it fixes a lot of what was wrong with NAFTA too.

So this isn't a race to the bottom, for lower wages and working conditions. The trade agreements I'm negotiating will drive a race to the top. And we're making sure American workers can retool through training programs and community colleges and use new skills to transition into new jobs.

If I didn't think this was the right thing to do for working families, I wouldn't be fighting for it. We've spent the past 6 years trying to rescue the economy, retool the auto industry, and revitalize American manufacturing. And if there were ever an agreement that undercut that progress or hurt those workers, I wouldn't sign it. My entire Presidency is about helping working families recover from recession and rebuild for the future. And as long as I'm President, that's what I'll keep fighting to do.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

NOTE: The address was recorded at approximately 4 p.m. on April 24 in the Map Room at the White House for broadcast on April 25. The transcript was made available by the Office of the Press Secretary on April 24, but was embargoed for release until 6 a.m. on April 25.

Barack Obama, The President's Weekly Address Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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