White House gets up to speed on status of trade agenda

President Obama and more than a dozen top White House officials and staffers were brought up to speed Monday on the status of the nation's ambitious trade agenda. 

The Obama administration officials specifically talked about moving forward with trade promotion authority (TPA) and the next steps needed to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with negotiations set to continue next month.

"Congress and the American public have high expectations for the TPP," The White House said. "The Administration is determined to get the best deal possible and we’re pleased with the progress made toward achieving an ambitious, comprehensive, high standard agreement."

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The latest TPP negotiations recently wrapped up in Singapore and the leaders of the 12-nation Asia-Pacific accord failed to hit their self-imposed deadline to complete work this year. 

But U.S Trade Representative Michael Froman has said that there is momentum in the talks and that negotiators have a strategy going forward designed to further narrow differences on the many unfinished complex issues. 

The meetings on Monday included Vice President Biden and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, each of whom recently traveled through the Pacific Rim, along with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Staff included Susan Rice, the president's assistant for National Security Affairs, Denis McDonough, Obama's chief of staff, senior advisers Dan Pfeiffer and Valerie Jarrett and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.

Meanwhile, Froman is starting off the third round of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with a focus on labor issues this week in Washington.

On that front, Froman is meeting with Perez, Leo Gerard, president of the United Steel Workers, and the Labor Advisory Committee to discuss labor issues on Monday.

He also will meet with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to discuss environment priorities in the trade deal.

As far as fast-track authority goes, House and Senate leaders are nearing the end of talks with a bill expected to emerge early next year.

Some House Democrats and Republicans have expressed opposition to giving the White House fast-track authority over concerns about the lack of transparency about the contents of TPP. 

Still, there is a broad push by business groups and congressional leaders to get a bill ready for consideration. 

On another front, a majority of House and Senate lawmakers, along with a broad range of business groups and labor unions, want any TPP trade deal to include currency manipulation provisions.

So far, the issue hasn't been raised in the talks, Froman said last week. 

Froman was back on Capitol Hill last week and met with a group of Democrats about TPP.

"I’m pleased that Ambassador Froman continues to be engaged in an open dialogue with Congress on the vital importance of groundbreaking, market-opening trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” New Democrat Coalition Chairman Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said in a statement. 

"As 2013 turns to 2014, I am committed to working with Ambassador Froman and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance a trade agenda that raises standards for workers and strengthens our economy by helping farmers, workers and businesses maximize their opportunities in the global economy."

Froman has met several times with the Democratic group to keep them abreast of the negotiations. 

"He’s been relentless in his efforts to build support on the Hill and make himself accessible as a resource, even as he’s had an aggressive travel schedule aimed at completing difficult multilateral trade deals," a House aide told The Hill.