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Obama Defends Trans-Pacific Partnership Deal

Continued discussion of a trade partnership among a dozen nations has brought up NAFTA memories and a forecast for a weakened manufacturing sector.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama faced down criticism from his own supporters over a looming Pacific trade deal on Thursday, saying he had no intention of selling out American workers.

Addressing a community volunteer group, Obama poured scorn on critics who have accused him of pursuing a trade deal with 11 other Pacific nations that would hurt middle-class Americans.

"If there were a trade agreement that undercut working families, I wouldn't sign it," he said.

Supporters insist the Trans-Pacific Partnership will level the playing field for American workers, and allow Washington to help write the rules of 21st-century global trade rather than its economic rival China.

But memories of the decline of manufacturing and industrial jobs after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1994 have caused some unions to oppose the deal.

Obama joked that he was just ending his education when NAFTA was signed, urging supporters to look at this deal on its merits.

The trade deal will be at the top of Obama's agenda when he hosts Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House next week.

Potential signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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