Washington - President Barack Obama hailed the signing of one of the biggest trade deals in history, saying the Trans-Pacific Partnership would give the United States an advantage over other leading economies, namely China.
"TPP allows America - and not countries like China - to write the rules of the road in the 21st century, which is especially important in a region as dynamic as the Asia-Pacific," Obama said in a statement Wednesday after the deal was signed in New Zealand by all 12 member nations, including the US.
The ambitious pact aims to break down trade and investment barriers between countries comprising about 40 percent of the global economy.
However, protesters and opposition to the deal in the United States argue it will cost jobs and impact on sovereignty.
Obama has consistently defended the deal and did so again in his statement, calling the TPP "a new type of trade deal that puts American workers first." "Put simply, TPP will bolster our leadership abroad and support good jobs here at home," he added.
Eyeing his presidential legacy as time ticks down on his time in the White House, Obama lunched with Republican Congressional leaders on Tuesday, with the TPP chief among the issues up for discussion.
However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later refused to commit to holding a vote on the Pacific trade deal before the November presidential election.
Ratifying the agreement would give Obama a major foreign policy win, something Republicans are loath to do.
"I'll continue working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to enact it into law as soon as possible so our economy can immediately start benefiting from the tens of billions of dollars in new export opportunities," Obama said in his statement.
"We should get TPP done this year and give more American workers the shot at success they deserve and help more American businesses compete and win around the world."