Following President Obama’s State of the Union address this week during which he discussed international trade issues, the White House is highlighting trade as a top area for cooperation this year.

To spread that message, the President is deploying cabinet secretaries to promote trade promotion authority (TPA) and round up votes from Democrats.  TPA gives the president leverage to complete trade negotiations by preventing Congress from amending his agreements before voting up or down.  U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and his team are also holding meetings on Capitol Hill with whomever wants a briefing on current trade deals under negotiation and Mike Harney, an aide to former Senator Kay Hagan, has been tapped to lead congressional relations.

Trade pacts currently under negotiation, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  and  the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) are seen as a key part of Obama’s economic legacy, and the president has expressed frustration with what he views as a knee-jerk opposition to his trade agenda,   “I think that there are folks in my own party and in my own constituency that have legitimate complaints about some of the trend lines of inequality, but are barking up the wrong tree when it comes to opposing TPP, and I’m going to have to make that argument,” he said at a Business Roundtable discussion in late December.

The White House is also feeling pressure from Republicans as the GOP has said President Obama needs to do more to get his own party in line on the issue. Republicans repeatedly criticized the Obama administration last year for exerting little effort to whip up support for trade.

About 80 House Democrats have been targeted in the administration’s efforts.  The rest of the House Democratic Caucus, which consists of about 100 members, are seen as likely “no” votes.  Many House Democrats voted against trade deals with Colombia, South Korea, and Panama in October 2011.  All three trade deals fared better in the Senate.  Between 20 and 40 House Republicans could vote against fast track, while only a handful of Democrats could be thought to support the measure, making for a possible tight vote.

Labor unions have joined Democrats in regularly arguing that those deals hurt U.S. workers and increase income inequality. House Democrats are also concerned that TPP will not have strong enough rules to protect labor rights and the environment and prevent U.S. jobs from moving to other countries.

Most Republicans in Congress support trade promotion authority and TPP.  But some conservative House Republicans are leery of granting Obama leeway to conclude oversees deals that would not be subject or procedural delays or amendments in Congress.    This uncertainly puts more pressure on the Obama administration to win over as many Democrats as possible.

Meanwhile, top GOP aides have been working with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, to draft fast-track legislation that is more palatable to some Democrats, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.