Froman touts benefits of US-Japan relationship to increase trade

“We believe that TPP can play an important role in that effort. By increasing the openness of Japan’s economy, TPP will not only create opportunities for Japanese exports, but also encourage Japanese firms to be more productive and efficient."

The United States and Tokyo are in parallel bilateral negotiations, which officially started last week in Japan, to open up markets long-restricted to U.S. exports.

The two nations must work quickly to resolve their differences amid the aim of the trade deal's 12 nations to complete an agreement this year. 

"The success of these parallel negotiations is a critical element in our ability to conclude TPP with Japan," Froman said. 

"That is why we’ve agreed to closely link the timing of our parallel negotiations to the timing of TPP." 

The separate U.S.-Japan agreement will be included into the final TPP deal. 

Froman called the talks, as Japan seeks to launch a period of renewal, "an unprecedented opportunity to move beyond past trade conflicts and to enter a new phase in trade cooperation" and work with Japan to break down the barriers that persist.

“Barriers to access to Japan’s automotive and insurance markets and non-tariff measures in other sectoral and cross-cutting areas, hold back growth and innovation," he said. 

"They undermine competitiveness, and they hurt workers, business and consumers in both our countries."

Congressional lawmakers, including Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) have expressed doubts that any deal can be made to wrench open Japan's markets after more than 30 years of trying. 

Levin has proposed a tougher arrangement for Japan to meet specific goals before gaining any more access to U.S. markets.

Even more broadly, U.S. officials support Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s plan pursue a growth strategy, which includes structural reform.

“We were encouraged when Prime Minister Abe said that he is pursuing a Japan that is “open to the entire world," Froman said. 

"There appear to be significant and promising shifts underway in public policy, public expectations and public confidence.

He emphasized cooperation between the nations so Abe’s economic reform program can put "Japan on a new trajectory of increased trend growth and productivity."

So far, during meetings with Japanese trade officials, Froman said he is "very pleased to hear their strong commitment to completing a high-standard TPP." 

Japan joined the talks toward the end of the last round, which was held in Malaysia. 

He said that the goal of concluding an agreement this year is within reach and is a top priority for President Obama and all TPP leaders.

"To build on the momentum of the last negotiating round in Malaysia and to lay the groundwork necessary to complete negotiations in the coming months, I will meet with other TPP Ministers in Brunei later this week to discuss key outstanding issues in the negotiations," Froman said.

"Together, we will chart a path forward."