Washington – Most guests invited by members of Congress or the White House to attend the State of the Union speech are there to be quietly symbolic, but not John W. Barto Jr., the former president of Ansonia Metals.

Barto, the guest of Rep. Rosa DeLauro , D-3rd District, spent the day lobbying against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States, that President Obama promoted in his speech to a joint session of Congress and the nation. DeLauro is also fighting against the proposed pact.

Barto even spoke at a press conference progressive Democrats held before the speech to condemn the trade deal.

Barto blames unfair competition from Mexico, Germany and South Korea  for the shuttering of Ansonia Metals.

“A company that had 400 employees in 2002 became a company with zero employees in 2013,” he said.

Barto said he tried to initiate an anti-dumping suit against the foreign companies that he said hurt his business, but the legal fees, estimated at about $1 million, would have been prohibitive “and at the end of the day our only reward would be those companies would have to pay countervailing duties.”

So Barto has become an activist against free-trade agreements like the TPP.

“We have free trade and there’s nothing fair about it,” he said.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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