BUENOS AIRES – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday that he welcomes Britain’s expression of interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation free trade agreement that will enter into force on Dec. 30.
In a meeting in Buenos Aires, Abe said the two countries are “the most powerful flag bearers for free trade,” and that Japan wants to cooperate with Britain in strengthening the free trading system that is rules-based and open, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
May was quoted by the ministry as saying Britain hopes to launch discussions going forward about entry into the accord.
Abe meanwhile asked May to ensure transparency, predictability and legal stability about Britain’s planned exit from the European Union in late March.
May reassured Abe that Britain’s departure from the single European market would not inconvenience Japanese companies operating in the country, according to the ministry.
In the meeting on the fringes of a Group of 20 summit, Abe and May agreed to step up cooperation in advancing the vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a move apparently aimed at countering China’s rising assertiveness in the region.
The leaders affirmed close coordination in maintaining the international order based on the rule of law in the East and South China seas, in a veiled criticism of China’s militarization of disputed areas of the South China Sea and Beijing’s attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Abe thanked May for dispatching vessels to monitor U.N.-prohibited ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products to North Korea, as part of sanctions to compel Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Abe won May’s support for Japan’s efforts for the early resolution of North Korea’s abductions of Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s.
In a separate meeting, Abe and European Union leaders reaffirmed the importance of Japan and the 28-nation bloc completing domestic procedures for a Japan-EU FTA by the end of the year for the early enforcement of the pact, according to the Japanese ministry.
In talks with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Abe sought the European Union’s support for Japan’s hosting of a G-20 summit in Osaka next year.