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 Davis RyanGOP super PAC drops .5 million on Nevada ad campaign Blue wave poses governing risks for Dems Dems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump 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.