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U.S. trade rep. touts Trans-Pacific Partnership to Delaware industry

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media
Sen. Tom Carper talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman about the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The Obama administration is embarking on selling a new international free trade agreement to workers, local industries and Congress. On Friday, it started in Delaware.


The First State’s senators hosted the U.S. trade representative at a New Castle small business to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


Michael Froman toured WhiteOptics, a lighting company that exports overseas, with Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper. Froman says Delaware’s $5 billion export economy, which supports 23,000 jobs, can only benefit from new markets and lower tariffs overseas.  


"And we’ve been looking across and working with Sen. Carper and Sen. Coons to make sure what we’re negotiating really addresses the opportunities farmers, ranchers, workers, small businessmen and -women can have to expand their businesses," Froman says. "So everything from the products of WhiteOptics to poultry are all gonna expand greatly because of the TPP agreement."


He says more than 20 percent of the First State’s exports go to countries that signed onto that agreement already.


Labor groups say the TPP will speed the decline of manufacturing in the First State. Meanwhile, Delaware’s poultry industry has said it’s reserving judgment on the agreement until impacts hit home.


Delaware's Sen. Chris Coons also says he's waiting to examine the agreement more closely. Sen. Tom Carper is more optimistic:


"In this case, I'm inclined to support it. I've been supporting the movement thru the legislative process," he says. "We want to read it carefully and make sure we're looking out for manufacturing and poultry and to the extent that we are, support it at the end of the day."

Poultry, along with the rest of the agricultural sector, is among Delaware's largest industries -- exporting $300 million a year out of the state's total export economy.