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TPP nations put off decision / Delay in trade agreement seen as beneficial to Japan

Daily Yomiuri, Japan

TPP nations put off decision / Delay in trade agreement seen as beneficial to Japan

11 September 2012

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Jiji Press)—The United States and eight other nations negotiating an expansion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal have effectively postponed the conclusion of their talks, originally planned for the end of the year.

In a statement issued Sunday, leaders of the nine nations reaffirmed their commitment "to concluding a comprehensive, next-generation regional agreement that liberalizes and promotes trade and investment, and addresses new and traditional trade issues and 21st-century challenges."

"We are confident that this goal is within our reach," the leaders emphasized. But the statement did not say when the goal will be reached.

Meanwhile, a report to leaders by trade ministers of the TPP nations said the countries will close talks in as many fields as possible this year.

This represented an effective revision to the target of fully concluding the TPP expansion talks by the end of this year.

Last November in Honolulu, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced intentions to begin talks on Japan’s possible participation in the TPP negotiations. But domestic talks have made little headway over thorny issues such as agricultural liberalization.

The United States, seeking market-opening measures in the automobile, insurance and beef industries, has not yet approved Japan’s participation. Among other TPP states, Australia and New Zealand remain unclear on whether they will allow Japan’s entry.

A delay in the TPP agreement among the nine nations is expected to benefit Japan. Observers had anticipated that Tokyo would be requested to accept unfavorable trade regulations if talks opened after the nine nations had already reached an agreement.

However, Japan still needs to make a decision soon. The ministerial report said the nine states will bring Mexico and Canada into the negotiations so the talks can be brought "to a successful conclusion as soon as possible."

The leaders’ statement reaffirmed their stance on the TPP since their meeting last November and said they will realize high levels of trade liberalization, including the basic abolition of import duties.

In the ministerial report, however, the nine nations noted the need for additional work in difficult areas such as customs, services and investment, where the pace of negotiations varies, indicating that the process will take more time.