United States trade officials have formally notified Congress of President Barack Obama's intention to negotiate a regional free trade deal with New Zealand and six other Asia Pacific countries.
In a letter to congressional leaders, US trade representative Ron Kirk says Mr Obama plans to enter talks for the regional trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Mr Obama announced last month that the United States would negotiate to join the free trade pact that already includes New Zealand, Chile, Singapore and Brunei.
Negotiations with those four countries and aspiring members Australia, Peru and Vietnam will begin in March.
Mr Kirk's letter says the Obama administration will include Congress in deciding America's objectives for the Trans Pacific Partnership.