TOKYO, April 15 (UPI) -- Japan's participation in the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership free-trade pact will strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo Sunday along with visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Kishida spoke highly of the efforts by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to join the TPP, which currently has 11 participating nations.
Although there is much opposition in Japan to the TPP, the Abe government support for the Japan-U.S. accord last week.
"Consultation on Japan's bid to join TPP talks has just ended," Kishida said. "If the world's No. 1 and No. 3 economies, i.e. U.S. and Japan, were to join TPP, TPP will come to hold an even greater strategic importance. Japan's participation in TPP negotiations also contributes to strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance."
Kishida said Kerry was urged to help gain U.S. congressional approval and that of other TPP members for Japan's participation.
Kerry noted Abe's "strong leadership" in this regard and said "we are now pleased to express our support to Japan for the TPP."
Kerry said Japan's entry into the TPP would be an enormous economic benefit for all.
"And we believe it will help raise standards across the globe with respect to international business," Kerry said.
Japan also needs approval of Australia, Canada and New Zealand to participate in the negotiations. Mexico already has given its support.
However, in a petition last week to Abe, a group of Japanese university professors warned against Japan joining the TPP, saying it could hurt Japan's farming, medical system and food safety standards. The concern is the TPP's tariff elimination provisions could harm some of Japan's protected sectors through cheap imports and the professors warned there is no guarantee Japan could win sanctuaries or exceptions to the TPP's tariff elimination through bilateral dialogue.
Kyodo News reported Japan has agreed to allow the United States to retain its tariffs on Japanese car and truck imports, effectively in exchange for the tariffs Japan imposes on sensitive agricultural produce.