The U.S. is eager to reach an agreement with Vietnam regarding TPP, U.S. President Barack Obama's signature trade deal before he leaves office.

The issues were taken up in a dialogue between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnamese Executive Secretary Dinh The Huynh in Washington, D.C.

Kerry called TPP "a critical relationship" at a joint press conference with Hyunh.

Obama's hopes to reach an agreement with Vietnam over TPP was dealt a blow in September when the Vietnamese government decided not to include ratifying TPP on its agenda for parliament.

Obama has expressed confidence of winning congressional approval for TPP before he leaves office, warning that failure to do so would undermine U.S. leadership in the region and allow China to set the rules of regional commerce.

With Vietnam's strengths in electronics, textiles, seafood and commodities, the TPP is seen as a game-changer for its export-dominated economy, and a means of boosting U.S. influence in China's backyard.

The leaders are also expected to discuss human rights issues and the territorial dispute over South China Sea.

Kerry on Tuesday said the U.S. was committed to "peaceful use and respect for rule of law in the South China Sea."

Huynh praised Kerry as a "close friend" to Vietnam and said he looked forward to a "candid talk."

The prospects for U.S. legislative approval of the TPP have looked increasingly dim, with both presidential candidates - Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump - stating their opposition to the pact, in its present form at least.

Reuters - October 26, 2016