Obama asks for eBay sellers' support on trade pact

This 20 August, 2005 file photo shows the entrance of eBay headquarters in San Jose, California.


WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama is trying to rally hundreds of thousands of eBay sellers to get behind a proposed trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries by telling them how the deal will help them.

The president emailed 600,000 eBay members, greeting them with "Hi eBay Main Street Community." The agreement, he told them, could help their businesses by "eliminating 18,000 taxes that various countries place on Made-in-America products, streamlining standards and technical regulations, strengthening intellectual property rights to fight counterfeiting and theft of your creative work."

Mr. Obama intends to sign the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), but he could face a tough task in getting Congress to ratify it.

The president has said previously that the deal "levels the playing field" for U.S. farmers, ranchers, and manufacturers. But he's also adding other constituents to the list, including internet vendors like eBay.

Mr. Obama says TPP will help preserve a free and open Internet. The growth among Internet users is greatest in developing regions like Southeast Asia and Obama says "they're looking to connect and buy from sellers like you."

The details of the trade deal were released last Thursday, making public 30 chapters and hundreds of pages of text. The president says one chapter in the agreement is dedicated to e-commerce. It establishes rules that ensure companies and consumers can access and move data freely without facing arbitrary blocking of their websites.

According to eBay, over 90 percent of American small businesses on the site export products -- and about one third of those exports are to customers in Pacific Rim countries involved in TPP. The company considers the deal "of top importance to the micro-multinationals that use eBay to reach global customers."

Under a trade law passed earlier this year, President Obama must give the public time to review the text before he signs the agreement and turns it over to Congress for approval.

The deal also faces tough criticism from candidates for the 2016 election, including contenders in the president's own party. Hillary Clinton, who advocated for the trade pact while she was secretary of state, has said she was "not in favor" of TPP because it could potentially harm American workers. Clinton recently defended her changing positions on the trade pact during the first Democratic debate, saying she had "a range of views" informed by core values and experiences.

Presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has also vowed to prevent the deal from passing the Senate, as it could "cost American jobs."