President Obama’s final State of the Union address Tuesday night focused on big themes of the economy, climate change, security and campaign reform, but also included an appeal to Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement — a move favored by the entertainment industry.
A little past the mid-point in his 58-minute address, Obama talked about the cooperation it took among nations to approve the trade pact, also known as the TPP. He said the agreement would “open markets, protect workers and the environment, and advance American leadership in Asia,” adding that it “cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, and supports more good jobs.”
Obama emphasized that, although it involves many other nations, under the TPP “China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do.” He concluded by telling the members of Congress assembled before him: “You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”
The comments immediately prompted a show of support from Chris Dodd, the former U.S. Senator who is now chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America.
“In tonight’s State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the advancement of America’s trade agenda through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as a top economic priority for our nation,” Dodd said. “We share this commitment, because the U.S. film and television industry is a global economic sector that relies on open market access and strong copyright protections to support nearly two million American jobs.”
Dodd’s statement added: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership will lower trade barriers and help creators protect their content, allowing our industry to expand in key foreign markets, bring that investment back to the United States, and promote even more jobs here at home. We welcome the President’s vision on this issue and look forward to continuing our work with Congress and the Administration to enact this globally and economically significant trade agreement.”
Obama’s nationally-televised address focused on the accomplishments of his seven years in office and evoked the call for change that he echoed repeatedly in his first run for president. He ended with an acknowledgement that he has failed to turn back the partisan fervor in Washington.
“The rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse, instead of better,” Obama said. “I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll try to be better so long as I hold this office.” But he said the American people would need to demand more changes — particularly voting rights reform, campaign finance controls and an end to political gerrymandering — to improve the political climate.
Obama then made a ringing call for Americans of all political stripes “to uphold your duties as a citizen. To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. We need to stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day.”