Paul Ryan: Don't let Obama run amok like on Iran

We have votes for TPA: Rep. Ryan
We have votes for TPA: Rep. Ryan

President Barack Obama's free-trade agenda, known as Obamatrade, faces close votes in the GOP-controlled House. But it's Democrats, not Republicans, who want to derail the process.

Ahead of Friday's votes, House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan said he hopes Democrats will come around and support Obama on trade.

It's a rather confusing issue with lots of acronyms, but here's the story.

The House fast-track trade legislation Friday.

The Senate has already backed the measure known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which puts the White House and Republicans on the same side. It would renew presidential authority to present trade deals that Congress can endorse or reject, but not amend.

"We have the votes for Trade Promotion Authority," Ryan, R-Wis., said on CNBC's "Squawk Box," hours before the scheduled vote. "This process brings more transparency and more accountability to how we consider trade agreements. And it gives Congress more control over the outcome of these trade agreements." (Tweet This)

"If you don't have Trade Promotion Authority, the president can do what he wants," Ryan said. "Look what he's doing with Iran. It's not a trade agreement, but it's a good example of [how] he can do whatever he wants, negotiate whatever he wants. We have no idea what he's negotiating. And he's not coming to Congress before he agrees to it."

Big vote looms over Obama today
Big vote looms over Obama today

The TPA will make any trade deals public for 60 days so everyone can see what's in them even before Congress begins consideration. "If you're going to do a trade agreement, here's how you have to do it. This is Congress' way of doing it, and we need to see it," Ryan said.

"This has probably been the best display in six years of real bipartisan cooperation with the leadership of the Republican side working with the White House," Business Roundtable President John Engler told CNBC Friday.

Obama wants the power to negotiate the long-sought Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal.

"There's been a lot of confusion about what is this vote. This is not the treaty. The treaty will be negotiated later," said Engler, former three-term GOP governor of Michigan. "This is the process that allows our negotiators to negotiate the best deal for America. It seems to me everyone ought to be for that."

That had been the main event.

But in 11th hour moves, Democratic critics the possibility of taking down a related measure called Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a program favored by liberals that retrains workers displaced by free trade.

TAA is a "necessary component and has been for many years of Trade Promotion Authority," Ryan said. "The question today is whether or not the Democrats are going to deliver their votes for … Trade Adjustment Assistance."

Labor unions and liberals, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., oppose the whole free trade process—saying the ultimate deal would result in American job losses by making it easier for companies to outsource work and keep wages down.

"There are those who seek to stop this from happening who are trying to misinform," said Ryan.

Supporters of the free trade agreement say it will create U.S. jobs and help the American economy. "Ninety-five percent of the people we sell to don't live in the United States. So we better be engaged in trade. We look around the world, everyone else is. The U.S. can compete," Engler said.

"There are going to be 3.2 billion people in the middle class in Asia in 15 years," Ryan said. "That's a lot of customers. We ought to be able to sell to them on a level playing field."

—Wire services contributed to this report.