In an emailed comment Friday, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman remained upbeat about the TPP, saying that momentum developed to advance the TPP talks in 2013 is carrying over to 2014. He said the administration is working closely with Congress and is committed to bringing home a deal "worthy of broad support from the American people and their representatives in Congress."
Ambassadors of Japan and Vietnam both say they want TPP negotiations to be completed before Obama visits Asia in April.
Japan's Kenichiro Sasae told the Center for Strategic and International Studies this week that fast-track authority is needed because there are worries the U.S. would seek changes to the agreement. He also acknowledged challenges remain on auto and agricultural products between the biggest players in the TPP, the Japan and the U.S.
The good news for Washington was that the Japanese and Vietnamese envoys remained strongly supportive of the U.S. role in Asia, viewing it as a stabilizing influence in region beset by territorial disputes. Those tensions have heightened fears of a conflict, as China stakes its claims to contested islands in the East and South China Seas.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters that from the president on down, the United States "could not be more committed to our relationship with Asia." Despite U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's deep involvement in high-stakes Mideast diplomacy, this month he will make his fifth trip to the region since taking office a year ago.