WASHINGTON -- New plans for a big European trade deal put President Barack Obama and Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of Visalia on the same page, for now.
Obama wants the deal covering trade and investment with the European Union. To get it, he must navigate the House of Representatives' trade subcommittee chaired by Nunes. What happens next will test the cooperation of two men who, until now, have rarely agreed on anything.
"I'm optimistic at this point," Nunes said Wednesday. "This is an area were we can work together in a bipartisan way."
Obama pleased Nunes and other free-traders Tuesday night when, in the State of the Union speech, he proposed negotiations on what the White House calls a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the European Union. The potential pact would eliminate tariffs, cut quotas, streamline regulations and in other ways ease commercial traffic among some of the world's largest trading partners.
A new deal would build on what's already a robust trading relationship between the United States and the 27- member European Union.
The United States exported $265 billion in goods to European countries last year, while U.S. imports of European goods totaled $380 billion. Transatlantic trade in services is equally abundant.
Some U.S. businesses, such as the California almond industry and Midwestern transportation equipment manufacturers, rely heavily on sales to the 500 million customers in the European Union.
"President Obama has always believed that a comprehensive agreement with the European Union and the United States could yield significant increases in U.S. exports
while supporting additional jobs here in the United States," outgoing U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters Wednesday.
It also could take longer than some hope, potentially extending beyond Obama's own time in office. It could force Congress into some contortions by twisting political alignments, and it certainly provides new opportunities for those, like Nunes, in the middle of the action.
Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 383-0006.