The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday formally anointed a task force for entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.
Headed by economic revitalization minister Akira Amari, the unit will start with 65 negotiators and coordinators and eventually expand to about 100.
“We have created a strong structure that can work toward (expanding) our national interests,” Amari said.
The unit was established at a time when the government is trying to achieve a balance between expanding Japan’s exports and protecting its farming and other sensitive sectors, while becoming part of the new U.S.-led multilateral trade framework.
“Once the negotiations start, very severe developments for the agriculture and fisheries sectors are expected,” said farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, who vowed the government will work hard to protect Japan’s national interests.
Koji Tsuruoka, deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs, was appointed the top negotiator, while Toyonari Sasaki, a former assistant deputy chief Cabinet secretary, was named head coordinator of domestic arrangements.
Japan declared its intention to join the TPP talks in March. It is seeking approval from the other members to participate.
On Japan’s preparatory talks with the U.S. for joining the TPP framework, trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi said the talks are progressing. “We hope to push forward negotiations with related ministries and agencies as well as countries involved so that Japan can join the negotiations as soon as possible,” he said.