The White House dismissed reports on Friday that it is backing away from completing its ambitious trade agenda.
A senior administration official told reporters that comments made by Vice President Biden at a House Democratic retreat did not signal a shift in President Obama’s desire to eventually complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement with a number of countries in South America and Asia.
“I wouldn't suggest that the vice president was saying we aren't going to pursue this agreement or TPA [trade promotion authority] in conjunction with this agreement,” the official told reporters during a call about the president's upcoming trip to Mexico.
“President Obama is personally committed to achieving this agreement.”
The official said the trade agenda, which includes the 12-nation Asia-Pacific deal as well as a separate agreement in the works with the European Union, are at the heart of the administration’s economic agenda.
“The case we'll make to anybody is that this is a key part of our economic agenda,” the official said.
The official said he was “confident” that the issue was a priority for the president.
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Biden also took a hard line in the meeting with Asian trading partners, saying Japan had been told that the TPP could not go forward if the U.S. auto industry continued to have a 1 percent market penetration in Japan, according to the Times.
Obama has planned a four-country trip to the Pacific Rim for April, and he also will head to Mexico, which is one of the dozen nations signed onto TPP.
—Justin Sink contributed.