Trans-Pacific tariff talks expand to include Japan
Japan will be admitted to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks, the existing 11 members of the negotiations said in a statement issued at the weekend after a meeting in Indonesia.
Trade ministers from the TPP nations "agreed by consensus to finalise with Japan the process for entry in a manner that allows the negotiations to continue expeditiously toward conclusion - as was done with other members that joined the negotiations in progress," said the statement.
Japan, the world's third-largest economy, will be able to join the talks after the existing TPP members complete their domestic processes to add participants.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government had pushed for speedy approval since announcing a plan to join the talks last month. They are aimed at eliminating tariff barriers between member countries in a region the United States says accounts for more than 40 per cent of world trade.
Abe has vowed to defend Japan's farming industry, which is protected by a 778 per cent tariff on rice, and which has traditionally supported his ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand want Japan to include all items in the talks, the Asahi newspaper reported last week. Japan's government says removing tariffs would provide a 3.2 trillion yen (HK$248 billion) boost to the economy but cut agricultural and marine output by 3 trillion yen.