WASHINGTON - Pacific trading partners are working toward releasing details of a sweeping free-trade pact, designed to free up exports of goods ranging from medicines to milk, as early as the end of this week, a person familiar with the text said on Wednesday.
Officials were working on the final aspects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) text, the person said, after negotiators reached a deal on Oct. 5 in Atlanta.
The pact is the most ambitious in a generation and a landmark achievement for U.S. President Barack Obama, who hopes it will cement U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region and help counter the rise of China.
But it is opposed by unions and many of Obama's fellow Democrats, including presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who initially backed the developing deal when she was secretary of state during Obama's first term.
Some pro-trade Republicans have also been wary of supporting the agreement until the whole document is released and many business groups are keen to see the fine print.
New Zealand is the official depository for the agreement, meaning it is responsible for circulating the text and related documents and notifications. Auckland is 18 hours ahead of Washington.
Release of the text may also start the clock ticking on the 12 member countries' domestic processes for ratifying the deal.
Daniel Russel, the top U.S. diplomat for Asia, told a New York seminar he had "every hope" he could turn Clinton back round to the deal. "She has not read the agreement; she has not seen chapter after chapter of TPP that represents the best that the best of our trade negotiators can get. And it is good - it is a great agreement," said Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia.
Obama must notify Congress 90 days before signing the deal and make the text public for at least 60 days before signing. Release this week would extend the period the text is available for public scrutiny before signing.
Under the timeline laid out by Congress, the pact will not come before lawmakers for consideration before March.
The deal will take effect within 60 days of all countries finishing necessary implementation work, or once six countries accounting for 85 percent of the bloc's economic output have ratified the agreement, if not all are ready after two years.
Recent U.S. trade agreements have taken from 12 days, in the case of Oman, to 113 days, for Chile, between the conclusion of negotiations and release of the text. That makes an average of 43 days.