Japan, the United States and 10 other countries that reached a broad Trans-Pacific Partnership deal last October will discuss the possible participation of newcomers in the regional trade bloc, Jiji Press learned Friday.
The 12 countries, which account for some 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, will hold a ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the signing ceremony of the TPP treaty in Auckland on Feb. 4, said sources with access to the TPP negotiations.
At the two-day ministerial meeting on Feb. 3 and 4, the 12 countries will start full-fledged discussions on possible TPP expansion, bearing in mind early participation by South Korea and Taiwan, according to the sources.
The meeting will cover the treatment of countries and regions that hope to join the TPP treaty after it comes into force.
Participation after the treaty comes into effect would require approval by all 12 members. Hoping to join the treaty early, South Korea and Taiwan have started preparations, including bilateral talks with some members.
With regard to Japan, a key issue would be South Korean and Taiwanese tariffs on Japanese automobiles and electronics.
Among other Asian countries, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia have expressed their willingness to join the TPP.
At the ministerial meeting, the 12 nations will also discuss whether to set up a secretariat for the treaty, according to the sources.
Currently, New Zealand, a key participant in the Pacific Four deal, the predecessor of the TPP, serves as working-level coordinator among the 12 countries.
New Zealand Trade Minister Murray McCully, as chairman of the ministerial meeting, is seen as likely to propose the establishment of a secretariat to which each member country will send an official.
The forthcoming talks will be the first ministerial meeting since the one in Atlanta where the 12 countries reached a broad agreement last October.
TPP members will also hold talks among their chief negotiators in parallel with the ministerial meeting.