Japanese, U.S. business leaders urge Japan to participate in TPP

Kyodo

Japanese and U.S. business leaders called on their governments Friday to make utmost efforts to get Tokyo to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations now involving 11 countries.

They also urged Japan to adopt a sustainable strategy for thermal power sources, including importing liquefied natural gas from the United States, amid uncertainty about the future of nuclear power in light of the triple-meltdown crisis that started last year at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The disaster has effectively led to the shutdown of most of the nation’s reactors.

“Participation in the TPP would boost Japan’s economic growth by increasing two-way trade with member economies, reducing operating costs for businesses in Japan, lowering prices for Japanese consumers and opening the way for more foreign direct investment in Japan,” the two sides said in a joint statement after their two-day meeting in Tokyo.

The statement said Japan’s participation in the TPP would also benefit U.S. companies and the U.S. economy due to the expansion of U.S. exports to Japan, while stronger bilateral economic ties would help ensure regional stability.

“2013 will be very important for the TPP,” said Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Keidanren, the top business lobby.

Yonekura, who cochaired the 49th U.S.-Japan Business Conference, said he is assuming Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will declare Japan’s participation in the talks at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia later this month.

“This would be the last chance” for Japan to make the announcement, Yonekura said.

Charles Lake, cochairman of the conference and chairman of the insurance company Aflac Japan, stressed the importance of Japan’s participation, which he said would benefit both Japan and the United States.

“With the re-election of President (Barack) Obama, the United States administration will likely seek to move very quickly on the TPP in 2013, and we hope Japan can be there,” Lake said.

Japan has yet to announce whether it will take part in the TPP talks involving the United States, Australia and other Pacific Rim nations, despite Noda’s willingness to do so, amid opposition from the domestic farm sector and influential lawmakers.

On Thursday, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano attended the meeting as a guest speaker and said he believes the current government should make “a major decision” swiftly to join the TPP talks before time runs out.

On energy, the business leaders in their statement encouraged the Japanese government “to pursue a diversified, cost-effective and realistic energy mix that will support economic growth in the short and long terms.”

To support LNG exports to Japan from the United States, the leaders will form a working group of U.S. and Japanese companies to promote the move to both governments, it said.

Referring to worsening ties between Japan and China over the Senkaku Island row, Yonekura said he hopes tensions will die down and the two economies solidify their ties, as they have been increasingly dependent on each other.

“I think (the row) would cause harm to China as well,” Yonekura said, adding the business community hopes to improve bilateral ties.

In addition to free-trade and energy issues, the Japanese and U.S. business leaders discussed topics that included financial services, health care and disaster management.

The next conference will be held in the United Sates next November.