Froman rallies mayors for TPP support

The top U.S. trade official on Wednesday rallied the nation’s mayors around an expansive Pacific Rim trade agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael FromanUK vote triggers talks with US Furman says Pacific trade deal will pass this year Overnight Finance: Anxiety grows over Brexit vote | Investors prefer Trump to Clinton in poll | Key chairman open to censuring IRS chief MORE called for support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and urged Congress to quickly pass the 12-nation deal.

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“With this historic agreement in hand, the question isn’t whether America should lead on trade, but why wait?” Froman said to the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

“Why wait on cutting thousands of foreign taxes on American exports? Why wait on supporting additional high-paying middle class jobs here in the United States? Why wait on helping our small businesses succeed overseas?” Froman said.

Support from the mayors is needed because "votes on trade are always close, and it's efforts like these that will tip the scales in favor of TPP," Froman said.

Froman credited more than 100 mayors for moving trade promotion authority (TPA) across the finish line last summer, an effort he called "critical in helping us get it done."

"Now, with this historic TPP agreement in hand, your cities are closer than ever to realizing its benefits. Together, we can get it done," he said. 

Froman said last week that a vote on the TPP isn't expected over the next month or two but that the White House and Congress are looking for the best window to send the sweeping deal to Capitol Hill.

TPA, or fast-track, sets out a strict timetable for the Obama administration to send and Congress to consider implementing legislation. 

The next step is for trade ministers from the pact's 12 nations to get together early next month and sign the TPP. There has been talk that they will gather in New Zealand, but nothing official has been announced. 

Another major factor in play is the release of the International Trade Commission's (ITC) economic report, which is expected in mid-May. Congress likely won't vote on the TPP before that comes out. 

The process could speed up if the ITC report is delivered earlier than expected. 

House Republican leaders have signaled that they may try to pass TPP by the summer despite the tight schedule during the first half of the year. 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRangel: Trump puts Ryan in tough spot Dems find voice with disruption Democrats plan 'day of action' to keep spotlight on guns MORE (R-Wis.) has said he wants to take a vote as soon as possible but that it is based on how quickly the White House and Congress can resolve their differences.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin BradyRepublican chairman: Our tax reform plan fits with Trump's vision House Republicans roll out new blueprint for tax reform GOP draws battle line with ObamaCare alternative MORE (R-Texas) said recently that passing the TPP “is difficult but doable” while stressing the economic importance of the deal for the United States. 

But on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: Trump needs to 'catch up fast' on fundraising McConnell dodges on whether Trump is qualified to be president Sunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval MORE (R-Ky.) has said he doesn't expect votes in the upper chamber until after the 2016 elections.

Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers are putting their muscle behind the TPP, which could help smooth passage. 

But President Obama, who is taking every available opportunity to sell the deal, has little support from labor unions or members of his own party who worry that the TPP will create job losses and further stymie wage growth. 

Yet Froman is steadfast in his stance that the TPP he helped broker will pay economic dividends for the United States.

"In an increasingly competitive world, TPP is one of our best tools for sharpening America’s economic edge," Froman said.

"For supporting the types of jobs our communities need. For making America the world’s production platform of choice: the premier location for investing and setting up shop in order to do business with the world."