As the two-day ministerial meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum ended Sunday in Indonesia with calls to promote free-trade initiatives, Japan gained unanimous backing to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks from the 11 APEC economies involved.

Yet, the green light obtained on the sidelines of the 21-member APEC meeting only marks the start of more rounds of tough negotiations for the world's third-largest economy, as it finally sets itself on track to join the TPP free-trade talks, with members committed to conclude them within this year.

"I wish we could have entered at an earlier stage, but that is a thing of the past. I am hoping to work on it by looking toward the future," said trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi, after being welcomed at a TPP gathering in Surabaya on Saturday.