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NEWS UPDATES 31 January 2010
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Washington faces skeptical Americans on Asia-Pacific trade deal

Its share of trade dwindling in the Asia Pacific, the United States is scrambling to drum up support from a skeptical public for a regional trade deal that can boost exports and create jobs, reported AFP.

President Barack Obama wants the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) linking the United States with an initial group of seven nations -- Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- to be the engine for a "high-standard, broad-based" regional trade agreement, officials said.

But pushing trade deals in the powerful Congress and among Americans at large is no easy task. Three free trade pacts that were signed with South Korea, Panama and Colombia under Obama's predecessor George W. Bush remain in limbo as lawmakers from Obama's Democratic party attempt to reopen talks for more concessions.

More than one third of Americans feel trade agreements are bad for America, and more than 40 percent believe such pacts have hurt their personal financial situation, according to polls cited by the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

Surveys also show that only 13 percent of Americans think trade agreements create jobs, while over half think these pacts lead to job losses.

But with Obama setting a bold goal last week to double US exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million new jobs in America, his administration is giving a rare push to the TPP deal.

Officials are "beginning an unprecedented 50-state domestic outreach strategy" and holding consultations to "remedy the deep skepticism on trade and to rebuild solid bipartisan support for trade," said Demetrios Marantis, Obama's deputy trade representative.

Marantis said negotiations for a TPP agreement with rapidly growing Asia-Pacific economies could be "complex and challenging but this watershed moment in trade policy demands our focus and ambition.


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