U.S. trade chief Michael Froman on Tuesday urged Congress to give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to strike a deal on a contentious Pacific free trade initiative and pave the way for a conclusion to negotiations within months.
“We look to Congress to pass a bipartisan trade promotion authority” so the United States and 11 other countries can conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal within this year, Froman, U.S. trade representative, told a congressional hearing.
Speaking at the Senate’s Finance Committee, Froman said everybody involved in TPP negotiations is focused on trying to reach a conclusion in the next “small number of months.”
Froman hinted the U.S. government has been making progress in talks with Japan over issues such as exceptional tariffs on some agricultural produce, saying, “We hope to close out a very positive package soon.”
Slow progress in bilateral negotiations between the United States and Japan, the largest economies under the envisioned TPP, has been seen as the major obstacle to concluding the multilateral pact.
At the beginning of the session, several protestors in the hearing room interrupted Froman’s testimony with one shouting, “No TPP” and others holding banners including one that reads “No Fast Track.”
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