Japan to announce entry into TPP talks next week

Japan to announce entry into TPP talks next week

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to announce next week that Japan will enter the ongoing negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, sources have revealed.

Abe is expected to make the announcement at a press conference likely on March 13, 14 or 15, before a general meeting of his Liberal Democratic Party on March 17.

Preliminary talks with the United States over matters related to areas such as the automobile industry are ongoing. After Japan announces it will join the TPP talks, the two nations plan to continue separate negotiations over difficult issues, the sources said.

Final talks are continuing with Wendy Cutler, the assistant U.S. trade representative for Japan.

According to sources close to the talks, the United States is expected to agree to gradually eliminate tariffs on automobiles, such as the 2.5 percent tariff on passenger vehicles, after a fixed grace period.

In exchange, the idea has been floated to increase the limit for U.S. automobiles eligible for import to Japan under simplified procedures from 2,000 vehicles per year to 5,000, the sources said.

The United States also reportedly wants Japan Post Insurance Co. to stay out of fields such as cancer insurance.

Within the week, Tokyo and Washington are expected to separate the items they have agreed on from those requiring more discussion.

At a recent summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, Abe confirmed that “eliminating all tariffs without exception” was not a precondition for entering the TPP talks.

When Abe makes the announcement, he is expected to point to calculations estimating that TPP participation would help increase exports and possibly add about 3 trillion yen to the gross domestic product, or enough to boost GDP by about 0.5 percent.