Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his country is close to an agreement with the United States on a major Asia-Pacific free trade pact.
A deal would help advance President Barack Obama’s economic agenda and tighten ties between the two allies as they seek to counter China’s growing influence, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
“We think that an agreement between Japan and the US is close but we’re hoping that even more progress will be made,” Abe said.
He said the trade deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is “extremely beneficial for both countries”, a message he will take to Washington on April 28 when he makes an official visit.
Abe said the United States and Japan must use their leadership to conclude the 12-nation pact.
In Tokyo, US and Japanese negotiators concluded a marathon session early Tuesday and said they had significantly closed the remaining gaps between the two sides.
“It would be good if I could reach an agreement during my meeting with the president but when you climb a mountain, the last step is always the hardest,” Abe said.
“Ultimately, what needs to happen is for both countries to make a political decision.”
Japan’s chief negotiator, Akira Amari, said Tuesday that rice and autos were “major challenges” but he said the talks were in the “final stage”.
The TPP is a top priority in Abe’s agenda to restructure Japan’s economy and boost efficiency, particularly in areas like agriculture.
Its success is essential at a time when his broader economic revival package, known as Abenomics, faces widespread skepticism and some big challenges two years after its launch.
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