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Why Congress is now ready to OK three long-stalled trade agreements

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Opposing the trade pacts, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) of Ohio, who represents a region hard-hit by the loss of manufacturing jobs, said: “Sure, we sell more pork chops, but we have half-a-trillion-dollar trade deficits and millions of job losses.”

In a forthcoming Gallup poll, only 1 percent of Americans mention free trade as the most important problem facing the country. But in an open-ended question on “what would be the most important thing to do to create more jobs in the US,” the No. 1 answer, cited by 19 percent of respondents, was “keep manufacturing here.”

“About a quarter of Americans spontaneously mention things having to do with trade,” says Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup poll. “It’s clearly conscious in the minds of Americans. People might be sympathetic to trade agreements if you can convince them that it will help with jobs.”

It’s no coincidence that the Senate has opted to take up the trade deals just 24 hours after a contentious vote on slapping trade sanctions on China for artificially lowering the price of its exports via currency manipulation. That bill, which alarmed free-trade advocates, passed 63 to 35, but it is unlikely get a vote in the House. Still, it sends a message that many in Congress are concerned about the impact of liberalized trade on American jobs.

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