WASHINGTON — The U.S. said Friday it has completed bilateral consultations with Japan and cleared the country to join the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations between the U.S. and 10 other countries.
However, the other TPP countries must also complete consultations and reach a consensus before Japan can formally join the negotiations.
Adding the world’s third-largest economy to the negotiations could potentially provide new opportunities for U.S. apparel, textile and footwear exporters, but it also brings a new level of complexity to the talks, which some fear will impede the goal of reaching a final trade accord this year.
Japan is the U.S.’ fourth largest goods trading partner and the U.S. exported $70 billion in goods to Japan in 2012. The U.S. Trade Representative’s office said Japan’s entry to the TPP talks would expand the agreement to cover nearly 40 percent of global gross domestic product and about one-third of all world trade.
“The United States and Japan have successfully completed these consultations by concluding a robust package of actions and agreements with Japan in the automotive and insurance sectors, as well as other nontariff measures,” said Demetrios Marantis, acting USTR. “As a result, we are pleased to welcome Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations pending a consensus agreement among the current TPP members and the completion of our respective domestic processes. Japan’s entry into this important initiative for the Asia-Pacific region will help it to deliver significant economic benefits to the United States, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.”
However, some lawmakers voiced concern about including Japan in the talks, which seek to create an Asia-Pacific regional trade agreement.
“The bottom line is Japan must address its long-standing tariff and nontariff barriers to U.S. exports, in particular on autos, insurance and agriculture,” said House Ways & Means chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.). “I will not support Japan’s entry into TPP unless we obtain airtight assurances that Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations will neither diminish the comprehensive and ambitious nature of these negotiations nor delay the goal of concluding the negotiations this year.”