Noda to avoid TPP at APEC

JIJI

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will stop short of declaring Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations at the Sept. 8-9 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit, sources said Wednesday.

“There are issues that have not been worked out yet” before Japan announces its full participation in the TPP talks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said.

At the previous APEC summit last November, Noda announced his administration’s decision to start preliminary talks with the aim of taking Japan into the TPP negotiations, which seek to eliminate all import tariffs in principle.

The domestic debate has been stalemated due to persistent opposition from inside Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan and from agricultural lobbies.

By putting off an announcement about the TPP, the prime minister apparently also hopes to forestall the possible adverse impact on the DPJ’s presidential election in September, in which he has signaled his intension to seek another term.

On the government’s handling of the TPP issue, Fujimura said, “There is no change in the policy of arriving at a conclusion from the viewpoint of Japan’s national interests, following national debates.”