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Paula Dwyer

How to Make Free Trade an Easier Sell

It comes down to protecting U.S. sovereignty and helping the jobless, says Robert Reich.
No respect for the TPP.
Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Until recently, most Republicans believed that free trade was good for jobs, profits and the U.S. economy overall. Democrats, never big fans of free trade, went along if the federal safety net provided for workers who were harmed by import competition. In this presidential election, however, those positions no longer hold: Neither party’s candidate supports the trade deal now on the table, the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Barack Obama negotiated and which awaits an uncertain fate in Congress. 

Does this mean the treaty is dead? Or can it be reincarnated? Robert Reich, the U.S. secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton, explains how the agreement can be fixed and made more politically palatable. This is a lightly edited transcript of our e-mail exchange.