By David Brunnstrom
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday and stressed it was important for the United States to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal that she opposes, Japanese officials said.
Abe and Clinton met for about 15 minutes at Abe's hotel in New York, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly, the officials said. The meeting was held at Clinton's request, they said.
The two stressed the importance of strengthening the U.S.-Japan security relationship and both outlined their known positions on the 12-nation TPP, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The pact has been agreed, but not ratified by the United States or Japan.
Clinton, the Democratic candidate in the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election, has opposed the deal, which is unpopular with labor unions and environmental groups, although she championed it while serving as secretary of state.
In a speech to U.S. business leaders in New York on Monday, Abe described TPP as a "pillar" of the U.S. rebalance of policy emphasis to Asia, which comes in response to China's rise.
"Through the TPP, the U.S. can make clear its commitment to playing a leadership role in the growing Asia-Pacific," he said.
"Japan and the U.S. must each obtain domestic approval of the TPP as soon as possible," Abe said. "Success or failure will sway the direction of the global free trade system, and the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific."
Abe said he would pursue TPP approval at an upcoming session of Japan's parliament.
"Japan will spare no effort, and we count on the U.S. to do the same," he said.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama engaged Ohio Governor John Kasich, a high-profile political foe, to help press Republicans to approve the TPP before he leaves office in four months.
The unusual move is a sign of how the White House intends to make a final full-court push to convince Republican leaders in the U.S. Congress to approve the deal in a "lame duck" session after the election.
The TPP has been pilloried by both Republican and Democratic candidates.
Republicans traditionally have backed free trade deals, but their presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has blamed them for U.S. job losses and threatened to tear them up should he win.
Abe had no meeting with Trump, who has accused Tokyo of not pulling its weight in its security alliance with Washington. The Japanese officials said Trump had not requested a meeting.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)