This week, top trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations met in Salt Lake City in search of a sweeping free-trade agreement.
During a news conference Friday, Sen. Orrin Hatch did not speak about what is specifically taking place inside the walls of the Grand America Hotel during the five-day, closed-door negotiations, but he said trade talks are important for the United States, and for Utah.
Because 80 percent of the world's purchasing power lies outside of the U.S., Hatch said coming to a trade agreement is a necessity.
"Our farmers, our ranchers, our businesses deserve to have access to these consumers who buy American products and services and agricultural products as well," Hatch said. "That's why I've been a longtime advocate of breaking down trade barriers and increasing global competitiveness."
The negotiations in Utah, which are expected to end Sunday, are the 19th round of talks in an effort to narrow differences over a free-trade agreement. The partnership aims to increase trade among the nations to benefit all of them economically.
But protesters, who have camped outside the Grand America doors this week, and critics of the potential partnership have alleged that the high-level talks have been conducted behind closed doors with only multinational corporations given access to proposed provisions.
Hatch agreed Friday that there was some secrecy associated with the negotiations in Utah but it's necessary, he said.
"When we get under these negotiations, they are sensitive," he said. "They are sensitive to the countries that we are negotiating with. They have to be conducted many times privately, that's just the way it is. There's no desire to keep people out of it."
Hatch said the discussions were brought to Utah because business and government leaders have a solid relationship with trade negotiators. He said the decision to have the meeting in Utah was a "real tribute" to the state.
According to the Trade Partnership, more than 140,000 jobs in Utah are supported by trade with TPP countries, and 20 percent of Utah goods are being exported to those TPP countries.
It is believed that negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership may be nearing an end. Once an agreement is made, it will be subject to congressional approval.
Besides the United States, nations belonging to the Trans-Pacific Partnership are Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.