Obama puts TPP trade deal at top of 2016 agenda

President Obama expressed optimism at a Friday press conference that Congress can approve a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal.

Obama called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) "a big deal" and acknowledged that opponents in both parties make for “an interesting situation."

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He said the White House will need to "stitch together the same kind of bipartisan effort" that helped his administration win a fight over fast-track trade authority.

The president argued that the trade pact between the United States and 11 other nations meets the bar he set for the agreement and is consistent with what he promised — major commitments on labor and the environment along with the elimination of thousands of tariffs on U.S. exports. Obama repeated his call that the TPP is the "most progressive trade deal in history."

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanIf Democrats want to take back the White House start now GOP grapples with how to handle town halls Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood MORE (R-Wis) said earlier this week that he wants to take a vote as soon as possible on the expansive Pacific Rim trade agreement if the pact lives up to the promises made by the White House.

He said he doesn't have a set date in mind but that the TPP is “very important” and "has a lot of promise” because it gives the United States the ability to write the rules of global trade in the fastest growing region in the world.

Ryan's comments struck a different tone than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThough flawed, complex Medicaid block grants have fighting chance Sanders: 'If you don't have the guts to face your constituents,' you shouldn't be in Congress McConnell: Trump's speech should be 'tweet free' MORE (R-Ky.), who said last week that Obama would be making a "big mistake" if he sought a vote on the TPP before the 2016 elections.

But Obama also said that a presidential election year can easily skew the best-laid legislative plans with lawmakers "looking over their shoulders" amid worries about the primaries.

"That makes it harder" to make strides on the agenda, he said.