WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he was confident Pacific Rim nations could nail down an agreement on a free-trade pact this year although approval by the U.S. Congress was not guaranteed.
Speaking to a group of corporate executives, Obama said trade ministers should soon have an opportunity to close a deal on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In Ottawa, a Canadian official later said chief negotiators would meet in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday Sept 26 and trade ministers would gather in the same city the following week.
“I’m confident that we can get it done, and I believe we can get it done this year,” Obama told the Business Roundtable.
He added, however, that U.S. lawmakers might not sign off on the pact even though they have given him authority to speed trade deals through Congress.
“The politics around trade are tough,” Obama said.
The TPP, a centerpiece of Obama’s push to reassert U.S. economic power in Asia, would link a dozen nations stretching from Japan to Chile that account for two-thirds of the world economy and one-third of global trade.
TPP trade ministers failed to clinch a deal at a meeting in late July, but they have said an agreement was within reach, despite some remaining thorny issues in some sectors such as autos and dairy.
The Canadian official also said representatives from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan would meet in San Francisco early next week to address disagreements over the auto sector.
Obama told the executives he was confident Washington could achieve its main goal, “which is to make sure that we’ve got a level playing field for American businesses and American workers in the fastest growing region of the world.”
Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Lisa Lambert in Washington and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Susan Heavey and Christian Plumb