By  on February 25, 2010

The U.S. wants to use the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to streamline regulations and promote supply chain efficiency for U.S. companies in Asia, as well as to provide an opportunity to expand exports, the Obama administration’s top trade official told retailers on Wednesday.

At the Retail Industry Leaders Association annual logistics conference in Orlando, Fla., U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk provided additional details about the TPP agreement ahead of negotiations set to begin in March.

“Through the TPP, we are aiming to integrate U.S. companies into emerging trade networks in the Asia-Pacific and promote the development of efficient production and supply chains that include U.S.-based companies like yours,” Kirk told attendees. “We are seeking to enhance transparency so your companies have access to information in TPP markets they need to effectively compete, to improve coherence and coordination of our regulatory regimes so your companies can efficiently compete in markets around the region.”

President Obama indicated in November that his administration would work with Vietnam, Singapore, Australia, Peru, Brunei Darussalam, New Zealand and Chile to shape a broader agreement out of the existing TPP free trade area. Kirk formally initiated the process on Dec. 14.

The USTR drove home “the budding importance for retail in the global marketplace,” said Sandy Kennedy, president of RILA.

Industry opposition to the TPP centers on the inclusion of Vietnam. Domestic textile groups have called the prospect of a trade agreement with Vietnam a nonmarket economy that has seen textile and apparel exports surge in recent years, a catastrophic mistake. In a separate speech Wednesday, Obama said the TPP was launched to strengthen U.S. trade relations with Asia as the world’s fastest-growing market. If the U.S. “sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores,” he said.

Obama also indicated the administration will continue its efforts to resolve outstanding issues in pending trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia.

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