Abe to decide soon on joining TPP talks

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he will make a decision soon on Japan’s entry into the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership trade liberalization talks.

“I will make an early judgment on the best path to serve Japan’s national interests based on the outcome of the Japan-U.S. summit,” Abe told a government panel tasked with forming measures to reinvigorate the domestic economy.

Abe was referring to his agreement with President Barack Obama during their meeting Friday that joining the free-trade talks will not require a commitment to removing every single tariff.

The agreement is seen as a step toward Japan’s entry into the talks, as Abe has said the country will not join as long as they are premised on the elimination of tariffs without exception, adhering to his party’s campaign pledge.

At the economic revitalization headquarters panel, Abe instructed participating ministers to come up with measures to strengthen the competitiveness of Japan’s agriculture, forestry, fishing and industrial sectors.

The agricultural sector in particular would become more vulnerable to cheaper imports if Japan eventually joins the Pacific free-trade accord, though Abe did not refer to steps specifically aimed at helping the sector against foreign competition in the event of a TPP agreement.

Abe instructed Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, “to bring into shape bold measures that go beyond the traditional mindset” in collaboration with other ministers.

Revitalization measures, including steps to attract younger people to farming, will be included in the government’s growth strategy to be compiled by June, officials said.