Abe gets party support on trade talks

Jan. 6, 2013 at 11:51 PM

TOKYO, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will get party support if he decides to join the talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, a party official said.

Speaking on a Fuji Television program Sunday, Sanae Takaichi, policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party, said it will be for Abe's Cabinet to decide whether to join the free-trade zone initiative led by the United States, Kyodo News reported.

The TPP effort currently includes the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. However, in Japan, the issue has drawn much opposition because of concerns among certain sections that TPP's tariff-eliminating clauses would cause cheaper foreign goods to flood Japan, threatening its highly protected farming and agriculture industry.

Abe, described as a conservative keen on strengthening Japan-U.S. relations, returned as prime minister last month after his LDP party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.

Stating the LDP will support Abe if he decides to join the TPP talks, Takaichi was quoted as saying: "It is possible that Japan will take part in the talks, while aiming to protect national interests ... ." Kyodo reported.

The farming industry has traditionally supported the LDP.

Takaichi, however, said the party's policy research council will present its own conditions for joining the negotiations and urged the government to withdraw if it cannot satisfy them, Kyodo said.

Abe is scheduled to visit the United States this month.

On the same television program, Kyodo reported Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari hinted support for the TPP talks, while adding he would also push for concessions.

"Cooperation between Japan and the United States is quite important in achieving development and stability in Asia," he was quoted as saying. "I will examine how flexible the United States can be toward Japan."

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