NEW YORK – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden agreed Tuesday that the two countries will cooperate in an effort to conclude talks on a Pacific free trade initiative this week, according to statements by both governments.
Biden and Abe agreed that their negotiating teams for the Trans-Pacific Partnership would work closely together “with the goal of resolving the limited number of outstanding issues at the upcoming ministers meeting in Atlanta,” according to the White House.
Abe and Biden met before ministers from Japan, the United States and 10 other TPP member countries resume their negotiations in Atlanta on Wednesday over thorny issues such as exceptions in tariff removal and drug patents.
A Japanese official who attended the meeting quoted Biden as saying the 12 countries engaging in the TPP talks should use this opportunity to strike a deal.
Abe told Biden that it is important to dispatch a forward-looking message to the world by reaching a deal early, Katsunobu Kato, the deputy chief Cabinet secretary, told reporters. The envisioned Pacific free trade zone would cover some 40 percent of the global economy.
Abe and Biden pledged the “utmost cooperation” over TPP-related issues, Kato added.
The 10 other TPP member countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
In Atlanta, Akira Amari, the minister in charge of the TPP, told reporters ahead of the ministerial talks that he was confident the chief negotiators had made progress over sticky issues in their talks that began Saturday.
Amari said he may hold bilateral discussions with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman as well as New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser on the sidelines of the broad ministerial session to resolve remaining issues.