Japan Pushes on With TPP-11 With U.S., China at Odds

(Bloomberg) -- Japan appears determined to embrace a leading role in making international trade rules, even as the economic conflict between the U.S. and China threatens to undermine multilateral institutions.

That was a key message from Economy Minister Toshimitsu Motegi at Bloomberg’s The Year Ahead conference in Tokyo on Thursday.

Motegi, Japan’s point person for the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, said he welcomes interest from more nations -- including the UK -- in joining the 11-member pact.

Click here to see Bloomberg’s Top Live Blogs and coverage of the conference.

It’s quite a contrast from years gone by when the U.S., as the champion of an international rules-based system, regularly lambasted Japan over trade and tariff barriers.

Other key points made by the minister:

  • He’s "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. and China can make progress in their trade talks.
  • It’s vital for Japan and the U.S. to create a framework for their own trade talks, which need be free and fair.
  • He is aware of the U.S. desire to reduce its trade deficit with Japan; investments in the U.S. by Japanese firms create huge numbers of American jobs.
  • In a comment with relevance to China, he said Japan will keep cooperating with the U.S. and Europe in dealing with intellectual property issues.

Note: Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP soon after coming into office, leaving Japan to salvage the pact.

Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam have now ratified the new deal, which will kick in on Dec. 30. Countries yet to ratify are Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia and Peru.

Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan have all indicated interest in joining, as has the U.K.

Unlike a traditional trade deal that merely covers the exchange of goods and services, there are broader requirements in areas such as labor issues, the environment and government procurement.

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