Reuters | Thu Oct 22, 2009
Senators urge Obama on Asia-Pacific trade deal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Two more senators on Thursday urged President Barack Obama to pursue a regional trade deal in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.
"The Asia Pacific region holds tremendous potential for American manufacturers, farmers and service suppliers," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and Senator Charles Grassley said in a letter to Obama.
They urged him to complete the Transpacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) begun by the administration of former President George W. Bush in 2008.
That would build on existing free trade deals with Singapore, Peru, Chile and Australia by creating a regional trade pact that also includes Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei.
The TPP would create a high-level regional trade framework "that has the potential to further open new and emerging Asia Pacific markets to U.S. exports," Baucus said.
"Trade needs to be part of the economic recovery effort, and finalizing this agreement would send a message to the world that U.S. trade policy is back in business," Grassley said.
Grassley has strongly criticized Obama for failing to push for congressional approval of free trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.
Obama administration officials say those pacts are on their agenda, but each has problems that need to be fixed. They have not offered any timeframe for sending them to Congress and some observers think they could languish for another year.
Obama will be in Singapore next month for the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. That 21-member grouping also includes China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.
Senator Richard Lugar has urged Obama to use that meeting to launch negotiations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on a regional free trade.
That group includes Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk was noncommittal when asked about Lugar’s proposal last week.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Eric Walsh)