Washington: A centrist US think tank on Monday urged President Barack Obama to ramp up efforts to win support for a pan-Pacific trade pact, saying without it Asian nations will be sceptical of the administration's foreign policy pivot toward the region.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies said if Obama can work with Republicans and address divisions within his own Democratic party over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, legislation to facilitate the pact could be passed midyear, enabling TPP's conclusion this fall.
Since the November elections that saw Democrats lose control of the Senate, Republican party leaders have identified trade as a potential area of cooperation with Obama, but divisive politics and strong opposition to TPP among many Democrats and labor unions still stand in the way of a deal.
It would create the largest free-trade area in which the United States participates.
In a year-ahead look at US policy toward Asia, the think tank said in a report that more leadership from Obama to win over Congress would resonate among the other 11 governments negotiating TPP, especially Japan, which is reticent on opening up its farming and auto sectors.
It also urged Japan, where the government just won a new term, to reach agreement on TPP.
Delays in finalising the pact and instability in the Middle East have raised doubts over whether Obama can follow through on his attempt to shift more attention toward Washington's engagement in the Asia-Pacific.
The centre says with the administration and incoming Republican Congress set for confrontation on many issues, the White House and the Republican leadership should chart a common course on Asia policy where there remains broad agreement.