Presidential election fact-free on trade but TPP will go ahead: US Chamber

U.S. presidential election is a 'fact-free zone' on trade

The world's biggest economy has plenty to gain from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), despite the anti-trade rhetoric dominating the U.S. presidential election campaign, according to a top executive at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Tami Overby, the senior vice president for Asia at the chamber, dismissed campaign trail electioneering as "a fact-free zone regarding trade," adding that "America will do the right thing," implying the TPP would eventually get ratified, but "only after trying everything else first."

U.S. presidential hopefuls, including Republican candidate Donald Trump and the Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, have spoken against the multilateral TPP as costing U.S. jobs - comments that, a survey by CNBC in March found, had led to the waning of U.S. public support for trade.

U.S. representative Michael Froman and Vietnam Minister Vu Huy Hoang celebrates the after the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership at Sky City on February 4, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. Countries are now in the process of ratifying the agreement.
Fiona Goodall | Getty Images

The CNBC-All America Economic Survey, conducted from March 21-23, found just 27 percent of the public agreed that free trade "has helped the U.S.," compared with the 43 percent who said it hurt the country. Support for free trade declined 10 points since the same question was asked in an April 2015 poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal.

With many of the potential replacements for President Barack Obama campaigning against free trade, commentators have questioned whether U.S. Congress will ratify the TPP deal that was signed by 12 countries in New Zealand earlier this year.

If Congress did not ratify the agreement, it would imply the U.S. was leaving Asia, according to Overby.

Overby told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that the economic and geo-strategic ramifications meant it was imperative the U.S. ratified the TPP.

The deal would also benefit U.S. companies by giving them deeper access into the business environment in Asia, she said.

Soybeans are harvested with a Case IH 7230 combine harvester in Princeton, Ill.
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The TPP is one of the world's largest multinational trade and investment agreements, designed to liberalize trade, set common standards and cut barriers among the participating countries.

In recent months, other members of the TPP have urged the U.S. to ratify the agreement.

Australia's trade minister, Steven Ciobo, told CNBC in February the deal was both in Australia and America's interests. During a visit stateside, Ciobo said the take-home message he was left with was that there is a "clear appetite for the TPP to be ratified" in Washington.

And in a March speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key urged the U.S. to continue to show leadership in Asia, according to a report by Radio New Zealand.

Key said if the U.S. abdicated leadership there, the role would get filled by someone else, according to the report.

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