National / Politics

Abe, Obama pledge to cooperate on Ebola and in breaking TPP deadlock

Kyodo, Reuters

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by phone Wednesday and restated their joint commitment to problems such as the deadly Ebola virus and the stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, officials said.

During their 25-minute conversation, Abe spoke of Japan’s plan to accelerate support measures for people in Ebola-hit West African countries. He and Obama also agreed that the international community needs to address the health crisis.

The latest outbreak of Ebola, a hemorrhagic virus for which there is no known cure, has left more than 4,000 people dead, mostly in West Africa, and there is concern worldwide about the virus spreading.

Obama was set to hold a video conference Wednesday with the British, French, German and Italian leaders to discuss Ebola and other international issues, the White House said.

Japan has had no cases of Ebola infection, but a Liberian man died from the disease in the United States and a nurse who contracted it from him was said to be “in good condition” Tuesday. A nurse in Spain has also contracted the deadly virus.

U.S.-Japan trade talks, vital to concluding the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, have been stalled for months, with each side blaming the other for a stalemate over tariffs on farm products.

Obama has said he hopes to have a TPP deal by year-end but many experts are skeptical as to whether the group’s two biggest economies can make the necessary compromises. Other TPP partners are reluctant to commit to final offers until they see how the two resolve their differences.

Japan wants to protect agricultural products including beef, pork, rice and dairy items, which it considers to be mainstays of its farming sector.

But with U.S. midterm elections looming, many U.S. farmers and lawmakers have warned against agreeing to a deal that does not open Japan’s markets significantly.

The two leaders also welcomed the recent release of an interim report about revising U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines, and discussed the security situation in East Asia.

Abe said he will try to build support for the guidelines revision both at home and outside of Japan.

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