19 officials tapped to help handle 21 TPP issues

Kyodo

The government said Friday it will appoint 19 negotiators for the 21 areas covered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade liberalization talks, as it gears up for joining the negotiations from late July.

The negotiators, officials from the Foreign, farm and trade ministries as well as other government bodies, will join a TPP negotiating team effective Saturday, raising its total staff to 113 from 70.

“We will have the negotiators set aside their positions in their respective ministries and work hard to (safeguard the nation’s interests)” as a united team, TPP minister Akira Amari said.

The government also appointed Hiroshi Oe, former ambassador to Pakistan, as deputy chief negotiator to facilitate communication between Amari and chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka, a Foreign Ministry official who will frequently travel to the other TPP member countries after Japan’s entry to the free-trade talks.

Japan will join the negotiations, which are already in their fourth year, in the 18th round, slated for July 15 to 25 in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. But the Japanese negotiators will be unable to actually participate until July 23, by which time the United States will have completed the requisite domestic procedures to begin trade talks with Japan.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Washington’s point man on the TPP, “looks forward to welcoming Japan’s entry into the negotiation in the latter part of that round,” his office said.

Meeting with ambassadors and officials of TPP states in Washington the same day, Froman urged them to “identify their countries’ core interests on outstanding issues so that together, TPP partners can focus the negotiations and chart a course to conclude an agreement,” the office said.