Japan agrees to join 11-nation TPP free trade talks

March 15, 2013

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Vowing to be tough in negotiations, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced March 15 that Japan will join 11 other nations currently participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, which are expected to be concluded by year's end.

"We expect a positive effect on our economy as a whole (by joining the TPP)," Abe said at an evening news conference. "Now is the last chance to join the negotiations."

The prime minister met with Shigeru Ishiba, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party secretary-general, in the morning on the same day and informed him of his plan to announce the decision to join the TPP talks.

“Japan should establish rules so other Asian economies can join the pact and create an economic sphere,” Abe told Ishiba. “The TPP liberalization agreement is a start. I will be tough in negotiations with the other nations.”

The prime minister met with Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of the LDP's coalition partner, New Komeito, in the morning and explained his intention. Yamaguchi’s party accepted the decision.

On the same day, the government was to release an estimate showing that Japan’s gross domestic product will be boosted by about 0.66 percent, or 3.2 trillion yen ($33.26 billion), in 10 years after Japan participates in the TPP arrangement. The TPP is expected to allow members to maintain some tariffs for about 10 years, on the condition they end them in the future.

According to the government estimate, the flood of cheaper imports by participation in the TPP would cause a 3 trillion yen drop in the value of domestic agriculture products, from the current 8 trillion yen. Currently, domestic agricultural products are protected from global competition by heavy tariffs.

However, the TPP will lead to an increase in the exports of industrial products and in domestic consumption, eventually offsetting the decline, the government said.

The United States and 10 other countries hammering out the TPP arrangement hope to reach a basic agreement by the end of the year. The other nations are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Japan has expressed its intent to keep its tariffs on rice imports and other designated agricultural items intact.

The Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization, which Abe chairs, met in the evening on March 15 and set up a group of ministers to oversee the TPP negotiations. Akira Amari, the economic revitalization minister, was put in charge of the entity.

The other members are expected to be Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga; Finance Minister Taro Aso; Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida; Toshimitsu Motegi, minister of economy, trade and industry; and Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to a Cabinet meeting on March 15 (Teruo Kashiyama)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to a Cabinet meeting on March 15 (Teruo Kashiyama)

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  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to a Cabinet meeting on March 15 (Teruo Kashiyama)

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