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Obama’s Pacific Rim trade pact picks up big endorsement

Straddle carriers move containers at the Uiwang Inland Container Depot in Uiwang, South Korea, last March. (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg)

The National Association of Manufacturers endorsed President Obama's Pacific Rim trade pact on Monday, giving a boost to the White House's efforts to enlist the business community in lobbying for one of the president's top remaining economic initiatives.

The backing of the nation's largest manufacturing association was not unexpected, but it came as the Obama administration has sought to increase pressure on Republican congressional leaders to schedule a vote on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the summer.

Some GOP leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have expressed doubts about provisions in the accord, and McConnell has suggested that a vote might not happen until after the November elections or perhaps even until a new president takes office in January 2017.

The TPP "will open markets and put manufacturers in a much stronger position to compete in an important and growing region of the world,” Jay Timmons, president of the manufacturing association, said in a statement. “We recognize this agreement is not perfect, and there are some principled objections to the TPP, so the NAM will continue to work closely with its members to address remaining barriers."

The White House has worked to rally the business community, and Obama met with chief executives of several major companies last month. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not taken a position on the trade pact yet.

The TPP is the largest regional trade and regulatory accord in U.S. history, and Obama has called it central to increasing the U.S. competitiveness in the Asia Pacific in the face of China's rising influence.