By Vicki Needham - 04/21/14 05:20 PM EDT
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is urging President Obama to engage with Congress to smooth eventual passage of a massive Asia-Pacific trade deal.
Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) said the president will have a chance to cover a broad range of issues during his four-nation swing around the Pacific Rim this week, and specifically pointed to the need to wrap up Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
He expects all eyes to be focused on what Obama says during the trip to Japan and Malaysia, which are each part of the TPP deal, as well as South Korea and the Philippines, which have expressed interest in joining the pact after it is inked.
“The president should articulate unwavering U.S. support for a rules-based economic order in the region,” Corker said.
“To that end, he must assure our allies and partners of his personal commitment to seeing TPP negotiations cross the finish line, including pursuing timely U.S. congressional approval,” he said.
“After many years of negotiations, the time is long past due to finalize a high-standard TPP agreement so that the United States along with the other 11 TPP members can begin to reap the economic benefits of this historic free-trade framework and firmly entrench free trade principles in the Asia-Pacific."
Corker said the trip “comes amid rising regional tensions and increasing questions about the direction of U.S. policy” and that the effects “of his trip will reverberate throughout the entire Asia-Pacific.”
“There has been much fanfare surrounding the rhetoric of the U.S. 'pivot' to the Asia-Pacific and even more analysis on what it means for U.S. political, security and economic commitments in the region and around the world,” Corker wrote.
“That reality necessitates a well-conceived U.S. game plan for the region, including a tactical short game and a strategic long game to protect U.S. interests and ensure credibility among our allies and partners.”