Obama: US, Japan will lead TPP partners to swift conclusion of trade talks

Japan's Abe: We have a dream to build peace and prosperity
Japan's Abe: We have a dream to build peace and prosperity

The United States and Japan will look to lead a "swift and successful conclusion" to negotiations over the highly contested Trans-Pacific Partnership, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

Speaking next to visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington, Obama contended that the 12-country trade deal will "level the playing field" and benefit workers in the U.S. and Japan. Some officials in the U.S. and abroad—including members of Obama's Democratic Party—have voiced opposition to a potential agreement.

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Obama downplayed concerns jobs would leave the U.S. and foreign companies would not strictly enforce environmental standards. He touted "strong protections" for workers.

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, with the Washington Monument in the background, on April 27, 2015. Abe is on a weeklong visit to the U.S.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

"This will end up being the most progressive trade bill in history. It will have the kinds of labor and environmental and human rights protections that have been absent in previous agreements," Obama said, adding that he was "confident" a deal will be completed.

Speaking through an translator, Abe said he sought an "early conclusion" to the trade negotiations.

"We will continue to cooperate to lead the TPP talks through its last phase," he said.

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Abe will likely address the negotiations further on Wednesday, when he is slated to become the first Japanese prime minister to speak before a joint session of Congress.

The TPP has been seen by some as an attempt to nullify China's economic influence in the region. Obama contended that strengthening ties with Japan did not serve to provoke China.

"We welcome China's peaceful rise," he said.

Abe added that "this is not something we" created with China in mind.

Obama and Abe also discussed increasing commitments to sharing cyberthreats, a growing economic concern.