Preliminary TPP talks to seek nod from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia

Kyodo

Japan will soon send senior officials to Australia, Malaysia and Singapore for preliminary talks on joining the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Thursday.

Senior Vice Minister Katsuyuki Ishida of the Cabinet Office said he set up the talks during a four-day tour of the three countries that ended Wednesday.

The government reportedly plans to hold a meeting of senior vice ministers, possibly Monday, to confirm a policy for preliminary TPP talks due to start in February.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared last year that Japan wants to join the TPP negotiations. Now Japan has to gain approval from the nine countries already debating the free-trade agreement, including the United States.

The government plans to start preliminary talks with each of the nine as soon as diplomatic arrangements can be made, Fujimura said.

At the preliminary talks, Japan could be asked if it is ready to put all imports, including rice, on the negotiating table for the elimination of tariffs.