TPP talks began in Japan without US

A meeting of chief negotiators from 11 countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks began Wednesday in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, minus the United States, which has decided to withdraw from the talks.

The chief negotiators are the top bureaucrats in charge of the issue, and are expected to discuss the steps needed to bring the TPP deal into force without the United States, along with details about possibly bringing the United States back in the future.

While Japan is taking a proactive stance toward realizing the pact soon, other participating countries vary in their positions. A focal point of the meeting seems to be to what extent the 11 countries can reconcile their differences.

A plenary meeting is scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, to be followed by individual negotiations on Friday.

Regarding a broad accord on an Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the European Union, Kazuyoshi Umemoto, Japan's chief negotiator, told reporters Tuesday, "I hope [the accord] will work as a tailwind also in terms of accelerating discussions on the TPP." Umemoto is a former ambassador to Italy and is charing the TPP meeting in Hakone.

PHOTO: The Yomiuri Shimbun

During the talks, the participating countries are expected to focus on how they can minimise changes from the deal to which 11 countries and the United States agreed before the United States announced it would withdraw, according to a source close to Japan's negotiation team.

In wishing to accelerate the TPP's implementation, Japan will likely not accept renegotiations on tariffs. Australia and New Zealand say that changes should be limited to issues such as the number of countries needed to ratify the pact.

Discussions may become bogged down, as they involve the complex states of each country's domestic situation regarding a TPP without the United States.

A meeting of chief negotiators is likely to be held again in September, and a working-level report is expected to be compiled by November.Speech