A week after U.S. President Barack Obama left Japan after a three-day state visit that saw no conclusion to bilateral negotiations crucial to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, a high-ranking official from Japan said that significant progress has been made but further efforts are needed to finalize an agreement.
Speaking to reporters via a translator in New York, Senior Vice Minister of the Cabinet Office Yasutoshi Nishimura said that the two countries are in the “last stretch” of their negotiations. He admitted that while there “was some progress” last week, “there still remains a gap and we have to make efforts to come to a compromise.” He added that the final stages of talks will be difficult as it seemed that neither side wants to budge on some of their considerations, particularly in agriculture for Japan and automobiles for the US. Finalizing a TPP deal is essential in the growth strategy of the so-called “Abenomics,” a series of economic policies introduced by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to increase consumer spending and ease monetary policies. This strategy was proposed by no other than Nishimura to the prime minister.
While Japan is seen to benefit a lot from the TPP deal, Nishimura said that it is also of equal importance to the U.S., which “represents common interests.” He said that the only way a deal can be concluded is through compromising on certain issues and putting out tremendous effort from both parties. Representatives of the 12 TPP countries are set to meet in Vietnam this month, which will be immediately followed by an Asia-Pacific summit of trade ministers to be held in China. The bilateral talks between Japan and the US are seen as critical in order to reach a final agreement with all the members, which will become the largest free trade deal in the world.