Obama, Abe push for completion of free-trade deal among Pacific rim nations

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Tuesday to join forces to push for completion of a major free-trade deal among Pacific rim nations, starting with Mr. Abe’s speech on Wednesday to a divided Congress.

The two leaders emerged from a meeting in the Oval Office expressing a commitment to work together on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, although U.S. and Japanese negotiators have yet to resolve questions about tariffs on auto and beef exports.

“I know that the politics around trade can be hard in both our countries, but I know that Prime Minister Abe, like me, is deeply committed to getting this done,” Mr. Obama said at a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden. “And I’m confident we will.

Mr. Abe, in Washington for a State Dinner Tuesday night, said he is “eager” to conclude the TPP because “prosperity brings peace.”

“We will continue to cooperate to lead the TPP talks to its last phase,” he said through a translator. Mr. Abe will be the first Japanese prime minister to address    when he speaks to a joint session on Wednesday.Congress

Many congressional Democrats, and some Republicans, are opposed to granting Mr. Obama trade-promotion authority that would help the administration complete the 12-nation trade talks more swiftly. The proposal, which would cover about 40 percent of global trade, has been in the works since the start of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Among the liberal Democrats opposing the trade deal are Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has criticized the administration for negotiating in secret, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, an Obama ally who calls the pact “a raw deal” for U.S. workers.

Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has yet to schedule a floor vote on the trade legislation as he waits for more Democratic lawmakers to support it. He wants about 50 Democratic votes to guarantee passage, but fewer than 10 House Democrats have announced their support, in spite of heavy lobbying by the administration.

Although the TPP is viewed by some as a counter to China’s economic influence, Mr. Obama and Mr. Abe said the trade agreement, and expanded military cooperation announced by Washington and Tokyo on Monday, should not be viewed as provocations for Beijing.

The president said TPP “is good for American businesses and American workers, regardless of what China’s doing.”

“We will make the case on the merits as to why it will open up markets for American goods, American exports and create American jobs,” Mr. Obama said. “So this is not simply a defensive agreement; this is something is going to be part and parcel of our broader economic agenda moving forward.”

But Mr. Obama pointedly noted that the security arrangement will cover the disputed Senkaku Islands, which China and Japan claim as their territory.

“There are some real tensions that have arisen with China around its approach to maritime issues and its claims,” Mr. Obama said. “But that’s not an issue that is arising as a consequence of the U.S.-Japan alliance.”

The new security guidelines come as the U.S. is realigning its forces in the region, including a Marine base on Okinawa. Mr. Obama said he “reaffirmed our commitment to move forward with the relocation of Marines” from Okinawa to Guam.

Mr. Abe also paid a visit to Arlington National Cemetery as the U.S. and Japan mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this year. He said the two nations have “turned a new page in the history of the U.S.-Japan alliance.”

Washington Times


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