VIENTIANE – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday that Japan will support any Association of Southeast Asian Nations member countries that wish to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.
The TPP, inked by the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim nations in February, “is a framework that allows for participation as each country becomes prepared to do so,” Abe said in a speech to business leaders at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Vientiane, one of a string of regional meetings hosted in the Laotian capital through Thursday.
“The TPP will not divide ASEAN,” Abe said.
The importance placed on the TPP by Japan and the U.S. has been interpreted as an effort to counter the regional influence of China, which is not party to the pact.
“The TPP was agreed after clearing political hurdles,” Abe said. “Japan will support ASEAN countries wishing to participate in the TPP so that they can bring their plans to fruition.”
Leaders of the Group of 20 major economies agreed to promote free trade further to accelerate global economic growth at their summit in Hangzhou, eastern China, earlier in the week.
The 12 members of the TPP are ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, plus Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and the United States.
The ASEAN members not signed up to the pact are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.
Some Asian countries like Thailand have shown an interest in joining the free trade initiative, which covers 40 percent of the global economy.