WASHINGTON – President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a Rose Garden news conference Tuesday that they plan to lead the talks over an Asia-Pacific trade deal to a conclusion and insisted their alliance in the region is not meant to provoke China, which is not a participant of the pact.
While no breakthroughs on outstanding issues between the U.S. and Japan were unveiled, both leaders reiterated their commitment to working together to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations with the 10 other nations taking part.
In addition to the U.S. and Japan, the TPP talks include Mexico, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Peru, New Zealand, Australia, Brunei, Vietnam and Chile.
“Based on the progress we’ve made, Prime Minister Abe and I discussed how the U.S. and Japan, as the two largest economies in the TPP negotiations, will now work together to lead our TPP partners to a swift and successful conclusion in the broader negotiations,” Obama said after a White House summit with Abe.
The Japanese prime minister said, “On the bilateral outstanding issues, we welcome the fact that significant progress was made. We will continue to cooperate to lead the TPP talks through its last phase. We’ve confirmed that we will work together for the early and successful conclusion of the talks.”
Among some of the outstanding concerns Congressional Democrats are pressing the administration to address in TPP are barriers to U.S. exports of autos and agriculture to Japan.
“I often point out, for example, that there are many Japanese cars in America, and I want to see more American cars in Japan, as well,” Obama said.
China has been called the “elephant in the room” and Obama and Abe both stressed that their alliance on security, economic initiatives and trade is not meant to threaten China.
“I’ve been very clear that TPP is good for American businesses and American workers, regardless of what China is doing,” Obama said. “We will make the case on the merits as to why it will open up markets for American goods, American exports and create American jobs. So, this is not simply a defensive agreement. This is something that is going to be part and parcel of our economic agenda moving forward.”
Obama said China and the entire region have benefited by stability and steps to ensure that territorial borders are respected.
“It’s on that basis that China became an economic juggernaut that ended up being incorporated into global trade,” Obama said. “So no, I don’t think that a strong U.S.-Japan alliance should be seen as a provocation….As I’ve said before, we welcome China’s peaceful rise. We think it’s good not only because it allows China potentially to share some burdens with us in helping countries that are not as far along developing, but we think it’s just good that hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have been able to rise out of poverty at incredible speed over the last several years.”
Abe said TPP was not created out of a “consciousness about China.”
“The economic growth of the region will be a positive and create opportunities for Japan, the U.S. and the world,” he said. “The TPP is such that to the eyes of many countries, it has become a model. It should be a model for China in that it is an ambitious attempt to create new economic spheres in which people, goods and money will flow freely within the Asia-Pacific region.”