Trade Ministers Sign Pact Focused On Asia-Pacific Region

President Barack Obama is applauding the signing of an ambitious free trade agreement among 12 countries that he says would support jobs in the United States.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, right, speaks to delegates at the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Trade ministers from 12 Pacific Rim countries including the United States have ceremonially signed the free-trade deal. (David Rowland/SNPA via AP) NEW ZEALAND OUT
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, right, speaks to delegates at the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Trade ministers from 12 Pacific Rim countries including the United States have ceremonially signed the free-trade deal. (David Rowland/SNPA via AP) NEW ZEALAND OUT

President Barack Obama is applauding the signing of an ambitious free trade agreement among 12 countries that he says would support jobs in the United States.

The signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement by trade ministers is an early procedural step in what could be a lengthy ratification process.

The clock on consideration by Congress does not begin until Obama formally submits legislation for lawmakers' consideration. The two sides are still talking about the best time for him to do that.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has recommended that Congress wait to vote on the agreement until after the presidential election, though the White House has called for quicker action.

Obama sent U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to sign the trade pact at a conference in New Zealand.

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