TPP negotiators set to meet next month in Hawaii

Negotiators of a massive trade deal spanning from Latin America to Asia are scheduled to meet next month in Hawaii.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said Friday that the United States will host a chief negotiators meeting from March 9-15 to continue hammering out the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

ADVERTISEMENT

Since last meeting in New York at the end of January, negotiating teams from the 12 TPP countries have been working on narrowing their issues.

“We have made progress and are meeting again to build on that work,” a USTR spokesman said.

On Friday, President Obama reiterated the importance of the trade agenda for boosting the nation's economy and helping U.S. workers.

"It means helping more companies sell goods overseas with strong new trade agreements that aren’t just free, but fair, and level the playing field for American workers," he said at the DNC's winter meeting.

On Thursday night, Darci Vetter, USTR's chief agricultural negotiator, said her team has made "significant progress" in the talks with Japan that are running parallel to TPP discussions.

Vetter said though that Congress must pass trade promotion authority (TPA) to ensure the deal’s completion, according to a news report.  

Congress passing TPA gives U.S. negotiators a "critical" tool for completing TPP and eventually trade talks with the European Union.

"The bottom line is, we face an important choice," Vetter said at the USDA's Agricultural Outlook Forum. "We can lead and ensure that the global trading system reflects our values and our interests, or allow others to come in and take our place."

Meanwhile, a congressional delegation of lawmakers wrapped up a three-country trip to Malaysia, Singapore and Japan this week.

On Thursday, Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump quietly rolled back programs to detect, combat weapons of mass destruction: report Ocasio-Cortez top aide emerges as lightning rod amid Democratic feud Juan Williams: GOP in a panic over Mueller MORE (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, along with seven other lawmakers met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other top Japanese officials in making their case for the TPP deal as well as TPA in Congress. 

"We see a good team building on this issue. We're working with Democrats right now in drafting TPA legislation," Ryan said, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Ryan has said that he thinks TPA can get through Congress this spring and that it is necessary if lawmakers want to put their stamp on the trade deals. 

The bilateral talks with Tokyo hinge on settling disputes over opening Japan's agricultural and auto markets. 

But Ryan and others backing the trade agenda, including the White House, face a wall of opposition from Democrats and labor, faith and environmental groups on both TPA and TPP. 

There are concerns that the trade agreement will hurt U.S. workers and are too much like past deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement inked more than 20 years ago.

Another thorny issue is whether to include provisions in TPP on currency manipulation.

The president has said that adding a framework would be complicated and could scuttle the talks. 

Others, like Ryan, say the issue is a concern but it needs to be handled separately.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced a bill last week that kicks off that process and would punish countries that adjust the value of their currency to gain an upper hand in global trade.