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Japan to join two major free trade sessions in Brunei, on TPP, RCEP

JIJI

Japan will participate in two major free trade meetings in Brunei’s capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, this week — a ministerial session Monday to further the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal and another from Thursday to Friday on the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

The TPP session will be the first opportunity for Japan to hold substantive discussions with its negotiating partners on the biggest issue — the elimination of import tariffs.

Japan wants rice and four other farm product categories to be exempted from the TPP’s basic principle of complete tariff abolition. The nation will be represented at the two-day gathering by TPP minister Akira Amari. It will be followed by working-level discussions set to last until Aug. 30.

The TPP has 12 negotiating members, including Japan, seven from Asia and Oceania and five from the Americas. If the trade liberalization initiative takes effect in all 12 members, a massive Pacific Rim economic bloc accounting for 40 percent of global gross domestic product will emerge.

The 12 TPP nations are united in their pursuit of a broad agreement in October for a final conclusion of the negotiations by year’s end.

Regarding the RCEP session, trade ministers from member countries, including Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, are expected to confirm the target of concluding the negotiations by the end of 2015.

RCEP is an envisioned free trade zone comprising 16 Asian and Oceanian countries, including the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as Japan, China and India. Together, the 16 states account for roughly half of the global population.

RCEP members have already agreed to discuss the three areas of tariffs, services and investments. At Monday’s meeting, Japan is expected to propose adding intellectual property protections to the agenda.