More advance TPP talks set with Washington

Kyodo

Japan and the United States agreed Wednesday to continue talks after wrapping up their two-day meeting to assess Tokyo’s readiness to formally join the U.S.-led Pacific free-trade agreement negotiations.

During the working-level meeting, the U.S. side did not make any specific requests to Japan regarding the automobile, insurance and agriculture sectors — the areas Washington is most focused on in relation to Tokyo’s future participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, said Keiichi Katakami, who led the Japanese delegation.

Katakami, ambassador in charge of economic diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry’s Economic Affairs Bureau, told reporters the two countries had “in-depth discussions” from a technical point of view in each sector being treated in the TPP talks and that both sides shared the view that the meeting was productive.

During the talks in Washington, the U.S. delegation, led by Assistant Trade Representative Wendy Cutler, briefed the Japanese team about the current status of the ongoing TPP market-opening talks involving the United States and eight other partners regarding 21 sectors to be covered in the market-opening talks.

The Japanese side explained its domestic laws and regulations as well as relevant provisions in its bilateral FTAs with other countries, the office of the U.S. Trade Representative said.

Katakami said the two countries will arrange the next meeting after reviewing the two-day working-level talks.

The meeting was held as a follow-up to the first preliminary talks held Feb. 7 in the U.S. capital.

Last November, Tokyo expressed its intention to start preliminary consultations with the nine countries currently involved in the TPP negotiations.

Japan needs to secure approval for its participation from the nine countries. Among the nine, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam have already informed Japan of their support for its participation in the multilateral negotiations.

Approval from the United States, the world’s largest economy, is seen as particularly vital for Tokyo’s formal admission to the TPP talks, given Washington’s influence among the member economies.

On the other hand, Australia refrained from declaring support for Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations during the two countries’ first preliminary consultations Tuesday in Canberra, according to sources.