McConnell keeps pressure on Obama in effort to protect tobacco in multi-national trade deal

07/31/2015 02:47 PM

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell is warning President Barack Obama and top officials negotiating the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership to ensure the tobacco industry is not negativity impacted in the trade deal.

On Thursday, the Senate majority leader sent a letter to Ambassador Michael Froman, the top trade representative of the Obama administration, calling on tobacco to be protected in the massive trade deal that some say is close to wrapping up. Pure Politics obtained the letter on Friday from McConnell’s staff.

McConnell, R-Ky., has previously written Froman twice on the subject of protecting tobacco in the negotiated deal, once in 2012 and again in 2013.

In the letter sent Thursday, McConnell tells Froman that he is “very optimistic about the potential for Kentucky’s manufacturing workers and farmers — including its thousands of tobacco growers — from new export opportunities facilitated by a completed TPP agreement.”

The crop is agriculturally significant to Kentucky, which ranks second in the nation for tobacco production. In 2013, Kentucky exported $300 million worth of tobacco, McConnell said in the letter.

Washington, D.C., outlet The Hill wrote about the letter on Friday afternoon signaling the potential tough road ahead for the TPP in Congress.

Obama was granted fast-track trade in large part with McConnell’s help in June. The Hill writes that McConnell won’t be able to block a vote, but either chamber could sink the deal based on a majority vote.

In Kentucky, the TPP issue is already on the radar of the Kentucky Farm Bureau, which worries about the consequences, and Republican agriculture commissioner candidate Ryan Quarles.

On Thursday, Pure Politics wrote on Quarles’ campaign emailing supporters of the situation and soliciting donations.

Quarles faces Democratic candidate Jean-Marie Lawson Spann in the Nov. 3 election.


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