Japan given OK to enter TPP negotiations

Canada becomes last of Pacific Rim trade pact's 11 member nations to formally grant approval

Kyodo

Japan got the green light Saturday to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations from the last of the 11 member nations, as Canada granted its approval at the end of bilateral talks.

Ottawa’s permission puts Japan on track to join from late July the ongoing discussions on creating a high-level trade liberalization framework among Pacific Rim countries.

“Canada has successfully concluded its consultations with Japan,” Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work together to deepen our trade and investment relationship in a manner that will generate significant benefits for hard-working people in both our countries.”

Gathering in Indonesia for a trade ministers’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the 11 TPP members were set to issue a statement later Saturday welcoming Japan’s participation in the free-trade discussions, a source close to the negotiations said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in mid-March declared Japan’s intention of entering the talks, seeking to tap the growth potential of Asian markets and boost the nation’s exports to revive its faltering economy. But all of the current TPP members had to first grant consent.

Australia, New Zealand and Peru gave their approval on Friday. Japan also won Canada’s backing the same day at the conclusion of working-level talks, after Ottawa had declined to give the go-ahead during a ministerial meeting with economic revitalization minister Akira Amari earlier Friday.

Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam all approved Japan’s entry shortly after Abe’s announcement last month, while the United States had offered its support the previous week after completing bilateral preparatory talks on key issues in the auto and insurance sectors.

Even with unilateral backing, Japan will miss the next round of TPP discussions to be held in Peru in May, as the U.S. government must give 90 days notice to Congress before starting to negotiate with Japan.

Hoping to protect its sensitive agricultural sector and have other national interests reflected in the regulatory framework being hammered out, Tokyo has been calling for a round of negotiations in July, between the talks scheduled in May and in September. Since various TPP members are calling on Malaysia to host the 18th round of talks around July 25, Tokyo is expected to get its wish.

The 11 countries engaged in the negotiations aim to conclude a basic agreement by the end of the year, leaving precious little time for Japan to exert significant influence over the final framework.

  • Spudator

    Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast is clearly a decent bloke and a believer in fair play and win/win, as this part of his statement shows:

    We look forward to continuing to work together to deepen our trade and investment relationship in a manner that will generate significant benefits for hard-working people in both our countries.

    But, I’m afraid he’s being hopelessly idealistic if he thinks Japan is interested in an equitable trading relationship with the other countries in the TPP. Japan has always seen relationships with the rest of the world as a competitive win/lose deal rather than a win/win partnership: the more the competition loses, the more Japan wins. Japanese Prime Minister Abe gives the game away and makes Japan’s contempt for fair play perfectly clear in this snippet:

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in mid-March declared Japan’s intention of entering the talks, seeking to tap the growth potential of Asian markets and boost the nation’s exports to revive its faltering economy.

    This is all the TPP is about for Japan–exploiting Asian (and other) markets for Japan’s benefit. Nothing else. For example, will we see Japan allowing Vietnam to export its rice to Japan in return for greater Japanese access to Vietnam’s markets? Like hell we will! Once it’s entered the TPP negotiations, Japan will be up to its usual monkey business of maximising what it takes and minimising what it gives.

    • akanosenritu

      It is natural that nations intend to maximize its gain as much as possible and to minimize its lose. A nation is not willing to sign a contract knowing it is against its interest. As a consequence, the deal results in the so-called win-win condition.

      Leader must aim at maximizing their country’s gain. Of course Canadian minister as well as Japanese one does. In this sense, it is a mistake to call one a monkey and to call another not a monkey.

      • Spudator

        I don’t think you get it. Win/win is about mutual benefit; it’s about maximizing the advantages for both parties, not for one at the expense of the other: that’s win/lose. And mutual benefit implies mutual respect–treating your partner or partners as your equal and dealing with them equitably. I hardly think the way Japan, a latecomer to the TPP talks, has tried to subvert the free-trade principles of the partnership by demanding special treatment constitutes respect for the TPP’s founding members or a desire for equitability amongst the partners.

        By the way, monkey business refers to improper conduct–like Japan’s outrageous vote-buying shenanigans at the IWC. I wonder what it’ll be up to at the TPP.

  • Argh

    TPP is nothing more than a route for large corporations to influence governments around the word – a better strategy than lobbying as it eliminates the middle man from the public view…