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LDP panel gives guarded nod to joining TPP talks

JIJI

A Liberal Democratic Party panel signaled Wednesday it would tolerate Japan’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks on condition that core national interests are protected.

The panel, titled the Research Commission on Regional Diplomatic and Economic Partnership, adopted a resolution requesting that the Abe administration fully take into account the party’s discussions when it judges whether to bring the nation into the multilateral negotiations.

The resolution says that if the administration decides to join the TPP negotiations, it should come up with a clear plan on how to protect national interests.

It cites agriculture, forestry and fisheries products such as rice, wheat, beef, dairy products and sugar as being vital to Japan’s interests and should be exempt from tariff elimination. It also says the nation’s universal health insurance system must be maintained.

The committee will report the resolution to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

A senior LDP official said Abe is expected to announce the administration’s decision on the TPP as early as next week.

At their summit in Washington last Friday, Abe and President Barack Obama adopted a joint statement saying that making “a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs” will not be required upon joining the TPP negotiations.

Assuming the administration will decide to join the TPP talks, the LDP committee said it will set up a subgroup to discuss issues related to the free-trade pact.