Obama Cites Hollywood-Backed Trade Pact in State of the Union

Barack Obama to Speak at Dreamworks
Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama’s State of the Union address featured an emotional high point when he told the story of military hero Cory Remsburg, and was heavy in talk of income inequality, education and ending the war in Afghanistan.

But studio attention was on what Obama said about trade, even if it was almost in a passing reference. The president called for “new trade trade partnerships with Europe and the Asia-Pacific will help them create more jobs.”

“We need to work together on tools like bipartisan trade promotion authority to protect our workers, protect our environment and open new markets to new good stamped ‘Made in the USA.'”

But Obama avoided going into detail over one of those trade pacts, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which has generated controversy even among Democrats. A key portion of the trade pact, which has yet to be finalized, involves intellectual property and bringing other countries’ copyright laws in line with U.S. law. The trade pact is expected to be between about a dozen Pacific Rim countries.

MPAA chairman Chris Dodd issued a statement after Obama’s speech, saying that the “film and television industry is one of the few that consistently generates a positive balance of trade in virtually every market we enter. A strong TPP agreement will allow U.S. creative content to expand into foreign markets, fostering legitimate digital trade and therefore generating enormous benefit to both creators and consumers.”

Some public advocacy groups, however, oppose the pact, and following the release of a draft by Wikileaks characterized it as a heavy handed Hollywood wish list, including terms to extend the length of copyright in other countries. One organization plans to protest when First Lady Michelle Obama attends a fundraiser on Wednesday night at the home of “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal. But U.S. trade officials have said that the pact does not include anything that is not already part of U.S. law.

Another issue is whether the administration will get fast-track authorization from Congress, something that would allow the administration to gain approval with a simple up or down vote.