Likely U.S. nod to put Japan in TPP talks by July


Tokyo and Washington are likely to conclude bilateral preparatory talks this week on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade liberalization deal, clearing the way for Japan to join the talks as early as July, government sources said Tuesday.

Tokyo has agreed to allow the United States to retain the tariffs it currently imposes on automobiles and trucks imported from Japan for some time, while securing fair competition in the insurance sector. Tokyo plans to negotiate the retention of its own tariffs on sensitive agricultural products during the ongoing TPP negotiations, which involve 11 member states.

After the conclusion of the bilateral talks, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to notify Congress and seek its approval for Japan’s participation in the negotiations. The process is expected to take at least 90 days.

“There is no doubt we have entered the very final stage” in bilateral negotiations on Japan’s entry to the TPP negotiations, said economic revitalization minister Akira Amari, who is overseeing preparations to join the Pacific Rim trade initiative.

While Japan must still obtain approval from Australia, Canada and New Zealand to join the negotiations, officials in Tokyo believe they are firmly on course to get the green light, since the three countries have been awaiting the U.S. decision.

Tokyo has been considering asking the TPP members to hold a fresh round of talks in July, aiming to join the rule-making process as soon as possible since it has already entered its third year. “The dates are not set yet, but we will do our utmost so we can join the earliest round of negotiations,” trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi said at a news conference.