Boozman says he wants changes in Pacific trade deal

Staff Writer

LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Republican Sen. John Boozman on Wednesday said he wants to see changes made to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, expressing concerns about the trade deals days after his Democratic challenger announced his opposition.
The Arkansas lawmaker said he didn't expect Congress to move forward on the agreement that President Barack Obama negotiated between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries until those concerns are addressed. Boozman didn't specify the changes he'd like to see, but he cited concerns raised by the rice and auto industries about its fairness.
"In its present form, I would say I'd have enough concern that I would not support it as it's written right now," Boozman told The Associated Press after speaking at the Arkansas Farm Bureau's Farm Policy Summit in Little Rock. "But I very much support getting the fixes in place so that we can go forward with the trade agreement."
Boozman, who was first elected in 2010, last year voted to give the president fast-track negotiating authority for trade agreements. His Democratic challenger, former federal prosecutor Conner Eldridge, said this month that he opposes the deal and was worried about its impact on Arkansas' economy and its farmers and other workers.
The deal has faced opposition from presidential candidates from both parties and has been criticized by labor unions, environmentalists and other liberal groups.
Arkansas' other senator, Republican Tom Cotton, told the farm group earlier Wednesday that he was still reviewing the agreement.
"I want it to work not just for Arkansas' farmers and ranchers, but all of the other industries in Arkansas that depend on exporting their products," Cotton said.
Boozman and Cotton split on issue of opening trade with Cuba. Boozman said he supports ending the U.S.'s trade embargo with the island country.
"We've been running the same play with Cuba for many, many years and it hasn't worked," Boozman said. "The fact that we're reaching out and trying to do something different, I think, is very positive."
Cotton, however, said he opposes the president's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.
"Ultimately, while I want to see all of you be able to sell your goods into Cuba, without a genuine, market-based economy in wchih the government is not intermediating every single transaction and its consumers can get the benefits of the work they engage in, that market is not going to grow that would ultimately be much more beneficial to all of you," he said.