FTA policy indicates positive stance toward TPP

Kyodo News

The government said Saturday in its basic policy on free-trade agreements that it would start consultations with countries involved in a U.S.-backed multilateral free-trade initiative, indicating a positive stance toward the framework.

But the policy, agreed on at a meeting attended by Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other Cabinet members, did not explicitly indicate whether Tokyo wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations, out of consideration for many ruling Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers who are wary about the possible adverse impact on domestic farmers.

Kan has been hurrying to work out an FTA policy before chairing the summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama next weekend, where he is expected to outline Japan’s stance on the TPP, which could become a leading framework in promoting economic integration in the region.

Under the policy, the government believes it has to deal with the TPP issue “by gathering information” and that it “will start consultations with the countries concerned, while swiftly preparing the domestic environment.”

The policy also includes support measures for the agricultural sector and emphasizes the need to promote ongoing bilateral FTA negotiations with other countries.

Wrangling over the issue has continued for about a month, dividing ministers and ruling party lawmakers and triggering opposition from farmers.