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Japan to Deepen Discussions About Trans-Pacific Trade Pact

Japan will deepen internal discussions over the Trans-Pacific Partnership as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe considers meeting U.S. President Barack Obama next month, new Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said.

“It is important to have a thorough discussion on it based on detailed information,” said Hayashi, the 51-year-old former economy minister, in a news conference in Tokyo today. He reiterated the policy of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that Japan can’t join the trade pact if the nation must agree to no exceptions on tariff eliminations.

Abe was confirmed by parliament yesterday as Japan’s seventh prime minister in six years, returning to the office he left in 2007 after his party regained power in a landslide election victory last week. He has put a priority on lifting the world’s third-largest economy from decade-long deflation through aggressive monetary easing, expanded fiscal spending and a growth strategy for businesses.

Japan, the world’s largest corn importer, is self-sufficient in rice as the government imposes high tariffs on imports. The government also protects wheat, sugar, meat and dairy products from foreign competition.

Japan’s biggest business lobby Keidanren, which includes Toyota Motor Corp. and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., has urged the government to join the partnership to increase the competitiveness of the nation’s exporters.

Abe has yet to make a decision on joining the negotiations after his party members won the Dec. 16 elections with support from farmer groups opposing to the free-trade agreement.

Hayashi was employed by Japanese trading house Mitsui & Co. before becoming a lawmaker. He also acted as the defense minister previously.

The TPP started in 2005 with Brunei, Chile, Singapore and New Zealand as a pact to open trade of goods, services and government procurement among members, building on the principles of the World Trade Organization. Among its goals are abolishing export duties and subsidies for agricultural goods.

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