DEWITT, Iowa — Former Gov. Rick Perry, barnstorming Iowa ahead of his unannounced 2016 presidential campaign, continued to seek his political footing Tuesday on a major trade deal under negotiation that has divided his party.
Perry, who has expressed some support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, said he nonetheless has concerns about it, starting with the man who wants congressional approval to negotiate the massive trade agreement.
"I would rather Barack Obama not be negotiating for me right now, but he's going to be there for about 20 more months, and this deal needs to be transparent, and that's my greatest concern — is the lack of transparency in this piece of legislation," Perry said during a stop here.
"Until the public and Congress are comfortable that they know what's in this trade agreement, I'm not going to recommend that they sign it, and if we have to wait until there's a new president, then that's OK," Perry later added.
The U.S. Senate voted last week to begin debate on giving Obama the power to negotiate trade deals like the TPP, an agreement among 12 countries including the United States. Granting Obama so-called "fast-track authority," which precludes Congress from fiddling with details of the agreement, is considered vital to closing the deal.
Stumping across Iowa on Tuesday and Monday, Perry sought to balance his pro-trade philosophy with his well-documented skepticism of the federal government. He is not alone: The deal has split Texas' congressional delegation along similar lines.
A spokesman for the former governor earlier this month provided a statement to Breitbart News that echoed Perry's general support for free trade, saying agreements like the TPP can help America "achieve robust economic growth and job creation."
After Perry's remarks Tuesday, the spokesman, Travis Considine, elaborated that the former governor wants to see transparency prioritized as negotiators hash out the deal.
"Gov. Perry supports free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Trade Promotion Authority that is required to reach a trade agreement, which gives Congress the right to review any agreement," Considine said in a separate statement. "He also believes increased transparency about the details of the agreement would help assure both Congress and the American people that the agreement is in the best interests of the U.S."
Fielding a question about the deal Monday during a town hall in Holstein, Perry admitted he probably knew just as much about it as the people in the room. However, he added, he would "rather have no deal than a bad deal," a line that drew applause as he pivoted to another politically charged agreement in the works — the one between the United States and Iran to curb the latter's nuclear ambitions.