US Senator: I couldn’t be less optimistic on a TPP deal

Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Japan this week, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker told CNBC he would be “shocked and delighted” if any progress was made on a much anticipated trade agreement between the two countries.

Obama plans to visit Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in a week long visit starting on Tuesday, hoping to win back some favor in the region after the cancellation last October’s visit amid budget wrangling at home which was broadly seen as a snub.

Many anticipate that the visit will help facilitate progress on the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). The deal which has been under negotiation since 2010 aims to eliminate trade barriers between countries and boost trade relationships. The pact is seen as a crucial part of the U.S. government’s rebalance towards Asia, known as its ‘pivot.’

“I think it’s [this visit] largely symbolic,” Wicker, U.S. Senator for Mississippi and Republican Party member, told CNBC on Tuesday, in reference to Obama’s visit.

“We need the President to visit Japan every now and then to show our alliance but in terms of anything new, like progress on the trade agreement, I couldn’t be less optimistic about that,” he added.