BEIJING (AP) — President Barack Obama pressed world leaders Monday to break stubborn logjams that have held up an agreement on a trans-Pacific trade deal that is eagerly sought by the White House and could lead to rare consensus with congressional Republicans.
"This has the potential for being an historic agreement," Obama said as he opened the trade talks being held on the sidelines of the broader Asia-Pacific conference in Beijing.
Ahead of Obama's arrival in China Monday, the White House had downplayed the prospect that an elusive deal would be reached during the president's eight-day, three-nation trip to the region. Following the leaders' meeting, a senior Obama administration official said the negotiations continued to make progress, but there was still no final agreement.
The leaders did not set a timetable for finalizing the pact, according to the official, who insisted on anonymity because the person was not authorized to publicly discuss the talks.
In a joint statement following the meeting, leaders from the 12 nations involved in the trade talks said they have been encouraged by recent progress.
"We remain committed to ensuring that the final agreement reflects our common vision of an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard, and balanced agreement that enhances the competitiveness of our economies, promotes innovation and entrepreneurship, spurs economic growth and prosperity, and supports job creation in our countries," the statement read.
Obama has made the Trans-Pacific Partnership a centerpiece of his efforts to boost U.S. economic investment in Asia, which he said Monday was "the fastest-growing, most populous, most dynamic region in the world economically."
The results of last week's U.S. midterm elections had made the political climate in Washington more conducive to international trade pacts. While some members of Obama's Democratic Party are wary of the impact trade deals could have on U.S. labor unions, Republicans have been supportive of giving the president authority to speed up approval of a final pact by making it harder for lawmakers to make changes.
Disputes between the U.S. and Japan on market access for their major industries have been at the heart of the stalemate over the trade deal. China is not a party to the trade talks.
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