Japan may join TPP free trade talks

March 13, 2013 at 6:05 AM
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TOKYO, March 13 (UPI) -- Japan may announce this week its participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, a source told Kyodo News

The report Wednesday quoted a government source that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was expected to make the announcement Friday. The report said Abe would hope to get backing for his decision at a weekend meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party.

The Japanese development comes as the 16th round of the TPP talks for the regional economic integration of participating nations continued in Singapore. Participating countries are the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Those countries' combined gross domestic product exceeds $21 trillion.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has said the participation of Canada and Mexico, the two largest trading partners of the United States, adds "significantly to the economic importance of the agreement as well as to establishing TPP as the most promising pathway to promote regional economic integration and to support the creation and retention of U.S. jobs."

Kyodo, quoting a source close the negotiations, said some countries at the Singapore meeting expressed concern over Japan's policy of seeking exemptions to tariff eliminations for items such as some farm produce.

The report said that those taking part in the Singapore round, however, would likely request Japan to go along with what has been agreed in earlier rounds. TPP calls for elimination of tariffs on all trade items.

In Japan, there are concerns the TPP would cause cheaper foreign goods to flood Japan.

Abe, described as a conservative keen on strengthening Japan-U.S. relations, returned as prime minister in December after his LDP party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Japan's farming industry has traditionally supported the LDP.

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