President Obama, in a joint White House appearance Tuesday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, touted a controversial trade pact that faces opposition from within his own party.

The proposed deal, Obama said, "will help level the playing field."

Obama and Abe stopped short of announcing a breakthrough in negotiations that are central to a massive 12-nation trade deal that would open markets around the Pacific rim to U.S. exports. But Obama said both he and Abe are "deeply committed to getting this done."

The prime minister's state visit aims to highlight the reconciliation between two nations once at war and to point the way toward expanded economic ties. The two countries are working toward the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Obama, though, faces stiff resistance to the trade deal from liberals and labor unions, political blocs that generally side with the president's economic policies.

Referring to trade barriers on vehicle imports that have been one of the main sticking points in the U.S-Japan trade talks, Obama said: "There are many Japanese cars in America, I want to see more American cars in Japan as well."

Abe said he is eager to see "the early conclusion" of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, adding that on outstanding issues over trade barriers "we welcome the fact that significant progress was made."

Before completing the deal, however, Obama must win expanded negotiating authority form the U.S. Congress, a difficult task given opposition from liberals and labor unions who say they fear the loss of American jobs.

Obama earlier welcomed Abe with full pomp and ceremony on a bright, dewy morning at the White House, calling the state visit a "celebration of the ties of friendship" and praising the alliance the U.S. and Japan have built over time.

Military honors and a gun salute greeted the Japanese leader in a South lawn arrival ceremony. A state dinner Tuesday evening with about 300 guests will cap Abe's day at the White House.

Setting the tone for the visit, Obama said: "The United States has renewed our leadership in the Asia Pacific.  Prime Minister Abe is leading Japan to a new role on the world stage."

Abe, speaking in Japanese, said he and Obama have been working to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance since they first met two years ago.

"Now our bilateral relationship is more robust than ever," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.