By Vicki Needham - 05/08/14 07:41 PM EDT
Eyes turn to the Asia-Pacific: With Congress on the quiet side Friday let’s take a look at what’s happening on the trade and economic front.
Well, there’s plenty.
Chief negotiators for the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will meet in Vietnam early next week.
The APEC ministers who oversee trade said Thursday in Chile that the process for creating a free-trade area in the Asia-Pacific, which includes TPP, needs to be accelerated.
Following those meetings, there will be another TPP gathering in Singapore, giving all nations a chance to get caught up.
President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were able to "shake loose the bilateral talks" during meetings a couple weeks ago in Tokyo, a USTR official said.
The two nations, which are in parallel bilateral talks, are focusing on the areas where there is agreement, which is a big step forward in negotiations.
Some trade experts have argued that more inroads were made between the two leaders during those discussions than has emerged, which could create more momentum for the negotiations.
While the U.S. and Japan remain focused on reconciling their outstanding issues, the talks are turning to the other 10 nations involved and the work that is left to be done, an official said.
Even if the pace of negotiations is picking up, there are mixed feelings in Congress about TPP and granting the White House trade promotion authority, which would ensure it sails through each chamber on Capitol Hill.
That means that the president's trade agenda could get pushed to next year, at least until after the elections, over Democrats' protests about giving the president fast-track.
Trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement continue to haunt the agenda.
Democrats have broad concerns about the effects on U.S. workers' wages and jobs in any future trade deal that isn't heavily vetted by lawmakers.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is headed to China next week for a couple of days of discussions with senior Chinese government officials about the global economic outlook.
Lew is also expected to discuss progress on China’s reform agenda and efforts to level the playing field for U.S. workers and firms.
The value of the yuan is likely to be a hot topic, too, especially with a more than $20 billion trade deficit between the two nations.
JOLTS: The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for March evaluates the labor market's data on job openings, hires and separations.
Wholesale Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its March wholesale trade report that includes sales and inventory statistics from the second stage of the manufacturing process. The sales figures say close to nothing about personal consumption and therefore do not move the market.
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