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President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on Oct. 2, 2015.Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press

Having hammered out an ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, the Obama administration now faces a potentially tougher task: selling the deal to a skeptical Congress.

For U.S. President Barack Obama, the trade deal is a major victory on a centrepiece of his international agenda.

He has pursued the pact against the objections of many lawmakers in his own Democratic Party and instead forged rare consensus with Republicans.

Officials from the Obama administration have already begun meeting with top U.S. lawmakers to push for the passage of the deal, the White House said on Monday.

It will now be reviewed by Congress, where some Democrats have raised concerns about its potential impact on labour rights abroad and U.S. employment.

Initial reaction to the deal from Congress members, including Democrats and Republicans, ranged from cautious to skeptical.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, warned the pact would cost jobs and hurt consumers. "In the Senate, I will do all that I can to defeat the TPP agreement," he tweeted.

Many Democrats, as well as labour groups, fear the TPP will cost manufacturing jobs and weaken environmental laws, while some Republicans oppose provisions to block tobacco companies from suing governments over anti-smoking measures.

Senator Orrin Hatch, a powerful Republican who heads the Senate Finance Committee, was wary. "I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short," said Mr. Hatch, who had urged the administration to hold the line on intellectual property protections, including for drugs.

U.S. lawmakers have the power to review the agreement and cast an up-or-down vote, but not amend it.

Trade unions and other critics say the deal will expose American workers to foreign competition and cost jobs. Given the opposition, the pact's "fate in Congress is at best uncertain," said Lori Wallach, a leading TPP critic and director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Peter Petri, a professor of international finance at Brandeis University, says he doesn't expect the deal to lead to any U.S. job gains. But he forecasts it will boost U.S. incomes by $77-billion a year by 2025, mostly by creating export-oriented jobs that will pay more, even as other jobs are lost.

Another target for opponents was drug companies' efforts to protect some of their products from cheaper foreign competition. U.S. drug makers wanted 12 years of protection from competitors for biologics – ultra-expensive medicines produced in living cells. Critics say blocking competition from near-copies drives up drug prices and makes them too expensive for people in poor countries. Drug companies got about eight years of protection in the deal.

Judit Rius Sanjuan, legal policy adviser to Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement that "TPP will still go down in history as the worst trade agreement for access to medicines in developing countries, which will be forced to change their laws to incorporate abusive intellectual property protections for pharmaceutical companies."

With a report from Reuters

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