By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, April 24 President Barack Obama's
administration on Wednesday notified Congress it will start
free-trade talks with Japan, bringing the world's third-largest
economy into U.S.-led negotiations on a regional free-trade
"The participation of Japan, a major U.S. trading partner as
well as close ally, further increases the economic significance
of a TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Agreement," acting U.S.
Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis said in a letter to
The 90-day notification was expected after U.S. and Japanese
negotiators reached a deal on April 12 on the terms of Japan's
entry into the TPP talks, which are now in their fourth year.
. It could clear the way for Japan to participate
in the July round of TPP talks.
The United States and the 10 other countries already
involved in the TPP talks on Saturday formally approved Japan's
entry into the negotiations at a meeting of regional trade
ministers in Indonesia.
Marantis sought to reassure lawmakers that Japan's
participation would not slow down the TPP negotiations, which
are slated for conclusion by the end of the year, and that Japan
would not refuse to negotiate in sensitive agricultural and
manufacturing sectors of interest to U.S. exporters.
"Japan has confirmed it will participate positively and
constructively in the negotiations. Japan also confirmed that it
will subject all goods to negotiations - both agricultural and
manufactured goods - and will join with the other TPP countries
to achieve a high-standard and comprehensive agreement this
year," Marantis said.
The White House sees the TPP pact as part of its economic
rebalancing toward Asia. It also plans to launch free-trade
talks with the 27-nation European Union in coming months.
Countries around the world are moving increasingly toward
regional free-trade agreements in the absence of any progress
toward a comprehensive world trade deal.
Detroit-based auto makers, particularly Ford Motor Co,
have lobbied against Japan joining the TPP talks.
They say the agreement will open the door for more imports
from Japan, without tearing down barriers that they say keep
U.S. autos out of Japan's market.
In addition to the United States and Japan, TPP countries
include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New
Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.
The 17th round of TPP talks is scheduled for May 15-24 in
Lima, Peru. It is expected to be followed by an 18th round
sometime in July that could be the first time that Japan
participates in the negotiations.