After meeting United States President Barack Obama in Washington, sources within the Japanese government said yesterday that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is getting ready to announce Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations. This shows that the government is confident that it can convince the US to accept Japan’s request to exempt from tariff elimination specific items, such as rice and beef, under the terms of the would-be TPP framework. Abe is most likely to announce this during a policy speech at the Diet, either on February 28 or March 1.
With many, including those belonging to Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, worried that taking part in the Pacific Rim trade will result in a surge of cheaper agricultural products from outside Japan, the government is set to create measures in support of domestic farmers. But, if the US agrees to the exemption of some food products from tariff elimination, Abe believes that joining the TPP will be a positive move for the country, which can then enjoy the benefits of free trade, at the same time protecting essential domestic industries.
A government official warns, however, that if Abe takes a month to decide, it is most likely that Obama did not heed the request. Thus, Japan will be cautious if it will still join. To be part of the TPP negotiations, an applicant State must have first sought the approval of all 11 nations currently involved. It is, therefore, expected that Japan will seek approval of the member states after making the announcement to join.[via Kyodo]