- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House are forming a new caucus to promote a new free-trade deal that would open up markets around the Pacific Rim, including the high-coveted Japanese market.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Caucus launches Tuesday afternoon, headed by four co-chairman: Rep. David Reichert, Washington Republican; Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat; Rep. Charles Boustany, Louisiana Republican; and Rep. Gregory Meeks, New York Democrat.

The congressmen said they strongly support TPP, because they believe increased trade will strengthen the American economy and create jobs.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been placed on the back-burner for most of the year, as U.S. trade officials focus their attention on a much bigger deal with Europe. But it remains a key component of the Obama administration’s oft-cited “pivot to Asia.”

But a trade deal with Japan, the world’s third largest economy, would be a significant achievement for the Obama administration, which has stated that creating jobs is a top priority. It would also place pressure on neighboring China, which has been wooing trade partners across the region in recent years.

In addition to Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, as well as Canada and Mexico. These countries account for nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP.

At one point, trade officials said the Trans-Pacific Partnership could be completed by the end of 2013, but both sides appear to be running behind schedule on that goal.

To date, the Obama administration has completed trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama. It is also working on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that would reduce tariffs and regulatory barriers between the U.S. and European Union.