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Obama welcomes Abe to White House with high ceremony

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared progress Tuesday in trade talks between their two nations, stopping short of announcing a breakthrough in negotiations that are central to a massive 12-nation trade deal that would open markets around the Pacific rim to U.S. exports.

Obama conceded the domestic obstacles both he and Abe face to concluding a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but said the deal would be an integral component of his effort to increase U.S. influence in Asia.

“The politics around trade can be hard in both our countries,” Obama, who faces stiff resistance from members of his own party, said during a Rose Garden news conference with Abe. “Both of us are committed to getting this done.”

Referring to trade barriers on vehicle imports that have been one of the main sticking points in the U.S-Japan trade talks, Obama said: “There are many Japanese cars in America, I want to see more American cars in Japan as well.”

Abe said he is eager to see “the early conclusion” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, adding that on outstanding issues over trade barriers “we welcome the fact that significant progress was made.”

Before completing the deal, however, Obama must win expanded negotiating authority form the U.S. Congress, a difficult task given opposition from liberals and labor unions who say they fear the loss of American jobs.

Obama welcomed Abe with full pomp and ceremony on a bright, dewy morning at the White House, calling the state visit a “celebration of the ties of friendship” and praising the alliance the U.S. and Japan have built over time.

Military honors and a gun salute greeted the Japanese leader in a South lawn arrival ceremony. A state dinner Tuesday evening with about 300 guests will cap Abe’s day at the White House.

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