Former defence secretaries push for trade pact

WASHINGTON – Eight former secretaries of defence are pushing congressional leaders to back one of President Barack Obama’s top priorities and pass a free trade agreement they say is fundamental to national security.

The bipartisan group has penned a letter stating that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will strengthen alliances with regional powers such as Japan and Singapore.

They also warn that a failure to ratify the agreement will result in a loss of credibility and let others, most likely China, set the rules for engagement in Asia.

The secretaries say the overall benefit to the economy and national security “cannot be overstated,” though opponents argue the pact would harm U.S. jobs.

The former secretaries are Harold Brown, Frank Carlucci, William Perry, William Cohen, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel.