President Obama this week became the first sitting president to attend a prominent German trade show, where he urged policymakers and a skeptical public to support the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
"We are ready to do even more business with Germany, more business with Europe and more business with the world," Obama said during remarks to open the Hannover Messe industrial technology showcase on Sunday.
The president hopes to complete negotiations on the free trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union by the end of the year — just weeks before he leaves office — and warned that bypassing that deadline could delay the pact for years amid political transitions on both sides of the Atlantic.
Trade agreements, including the TTIP and its Pacific Rim counterpart — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — became contentious domestic issues both in Obama's last term and in the race to succeed him.
The opposition, however, appears to be much louder in Europe. An estimated 35,000 protesters converged on Hannover ahead of the president's visit to condemn the deal.
Obama acknowledged the difficult politics of the agreement, from concerns over consumer protection and environmental standards in Europe to worries over job losses in the U.S. But he cautioned that the current barriers to trans-Atlantic trade hinder "the largest trade and investment relationship in the world."
"At a time when other countries are trying to shape global trade to their advantage, our countries — which make up nearly half the global economy — have the opportunity to write the rules for trade in a way that reflects our values," Obama said.
Obama also touted U.S.-made products during his stop in Hannover and encouraged overseas companies consider investing in the U.S. German investment, Obama said, already supports 600,000 American jobs.
The U.S., for the first time, became a partner in Hannover Messe this year, and 350 U.S. companies and dozens of state and local economic development groups made the trek overseas to attend the show.
Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also toured the convention and examined advanced computers, sensors, batteries and prosthetics, as well as a set of virtual reality glasses.
"It's a brave new world," Obama said while trying on the VR headset, according to the Associated Press.