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Asean Affairs 18 October 2011
Japan may hold key to TPP trade deal
By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs 18 October 2011
As reported in today’s News Update, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement is inching forward.
Often called the “21st Century Trade Agreement,” the TPP currently brings together four Asean countries, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam and Australia, Chile, New Zealand, Peru and the United States. The next formal step will be at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit November 17-18 in Hawaii, hosted by US President Barack Obama.
If the deal gets off the ground it may attract other Asean countries plus China, India and Russia.
The deal could reset world trade flows, as it would recover around 50 percent of global commerce. Observers believe that Japan holds the key.
Japan is historically protective about certain economic sectors, especially the rice and wheat crops. In the past, free trade agreements have included “exceptions” encompassing about 940 items.
Food safety is also a concern in Japan meaning genetically altered foods and import restrictions on U.S. beef that were imposed over “mad” cow fears. The current adding that it does not intend to accept any proposals that could threaten the safety of foods in Japan.
Countering those concerns, the Japanese believe that the trade pact will increase their exports and help it access resources.
The TPP could allow for foreign companies to do construction work in Japan and vice versa for Japanese construction firms.
As Japan is till recovering from its earthquake-tsunami-nuclear disaster, it is anyone’s guess on what their decision on the TPP will be.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said Tokyo would decide on whether to join the TPP negotiations at an early date, as the nine countries involved in the talks aim to reach agreement on a broad outline of the deal in mid-November.