US will sign Pacific trade deal on Feb. 4

US will sign Pacific trade deal on Feb. 4

Trade ministers will gather in New Zealand next month to sign a sweeping Asia-Pacific agreement.

U.S. trade officials said Wednesday evening that leaders of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will sign the massive deal on Feb. 4 in Auckland, kicking off the next phase of intense talks between Congress and the White House.

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U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE, who will attend the signing, said that moving to this stage is “an important milestone in our work to level the playing field for American workers and expand 'Made in America' exports.”

“The signing will mark agreement on the highest-standard trade pact in U.S. history and send an important message that America is prepared to take the lead in setting the rules of the road on trade in the century ahead,” Froman said.

New Zealand's trade minister, Todd McClay, confirmed that invitations to the signing were sent out.

“Signature will mark the end of the TPP negotiating process,” McClay said in a statement.

“Following signature, all 12 countries will be able to begin their respective domestic ratification processes and will have up to two years to complete that before the agreement enters into force," he added. 

While the signing of the deal is a significant step, there is not a hard and fast deadline on when the White House will send Congress the implementing bill.

The Obama administration and congressional leaders, along with other supporters of the TPP deal, have vowed to work together to resolve outstanding issues and deciding when it is best to send the agreement to Capitol Hill for votes.

“We look forward to our continued work with members of Congress as they consider both the economic benefits TPP delivers at home and its strategic importance abroad in the months ahead," Froman said.