US, Australian leaders urge passage of Pacific trade deal

U.S. and Australian leaders on Tuesday touted the sweeping benefits of an expansive Asia-Pacific trade agreement and urged Congress to approve the deal.

President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met at the White House where they agreed that the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) reaches beyond job creation and economic growth and into improving security and stability throughout the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I think when people try to analyze it in terms of what it adds to this amount of GDP or that, that's important,” Turnbull said in the Oval Office. 

“But the critical thing is the way it promotes the continued integration of those economies, because that is as important an element in our security in the maintenance of the values which both our countries share as all of our other efforts — whether they are in defense or whether they are in traditional diplomacy," he said. 

Obama, flanked by various administration officials including U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Secretary of State John Kerry, focused on how the TPP will create a rules-based framework in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are both part of the driving force that created this rules-based system that is now being prepared to ratify among the various nations,” Obama said. 

"It reaffirms that in order for us to thrive in the 21st century, particularly economies that are respectful of rule of law and concerned about labor rights and environmental rights, it’s important for us to be making the rules in this region, and that’s exactly what TPP does," Obama said.

The president noted that the U.S. rebalance in the region has been effective "in part because we have such strong treaty alliances, and Australia is one of those critical alliances."

Turnbull, who is making his first trip to the United States since taking the helm in September, said he urged the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday to encourage Congress to support the TPP which he said "is much more than a trade deal.”  

“The prosperity of the world, the security of the world has been founded on the peace and order in the Asia Pacific, which has been delivered underwritten by the United States and its allies, including Australia,” he said.

Turnbull said that it is crucial to have that rules-based system in place. 

"[TPP] is standing up for, as you said, the rules-based international order, an order where might is not right, where the law must prevail, where there is real transparency, where people can invest with confidence.

Each country has hurdles to getting the TPP ratified. The push is one to get the TPP passed by Congress before Obama leaves office.