Froman urges Japan to bring bold vision to table on trade talks

The nation’s top trade official said Thursday that Japan needs to bring its bold economic vision to the negotiating table on a massive Asia-Pacific trade deal. 

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said that while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has expressed his desire to make sweeping structural reforms to open his country’s economy, that agenda hasn’t translated into progress for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks.

{mosads}”It’s challenging, it’s difficult, but achieving it [structural reform] is absolutely critical to getting back on the path toward sustainable growth, and we are looking forward to the bold vision that Prime Minister Abe has laid out being translated into similarly bold visions at the negotiating table as well,” he said during a trade event in Washington on Thursday.

Froman said the TPP deal should be used to drive those economic changes to boost growth in Japan, the world’s third-largest economy.

“A key part of this agreement is to achieve a high level of ambition, to use the agreement to drive structural reforms, to improve levels of growth. And nowhere is that more important than in Japan,” Froman said.

“Prime Minister Abe has laid out a bold vision for his country in terms of pulling his country out of two decades of stagnation, modernizing the economy and setting it on a new path forward.”

He praised Japan’s trade minister, Akira Amari, for his efforts on the trade deal despite a break down in talks last week in Washington over the expansion of market access for U.S. agriculture and autos.

“I think we are very fortunate on our part to have Minister Amari as our counterpart, as the TPP negotiator, because he is also responsible for the overall economic reform effort in Japan,” Froman said.

“We know how hard it is to achieve structural reform; we have done it in this country, we have done it in financial services, we’ve done it in healthcare, we have done it in the auto sector.”

Last week in New York, Abe said that “Japan is determined to boldly contribute to reaching a [TPP] agreement.” But he also said that both sides must be willing to provide concessions to push the deal forward. 

Abe has said that the TPP is a major part of his so-called Third Arrow plan to revitalize the Japanese economy.

The 12 nations involved in the deal discussions are aiming to complete a deal in November.

Froman has said that the goal is for Japan, as part of getting a seat at the TPP table, is to eliminate most tariffs and other non-tariff barriers that will allow for the free flow of more foreign imports and breathe life into Japan’s economy. 

Abe and Vice President Biden met briefly in New York and agreed on the importance of working out their outstanding issues on agriculture and automobiles as soon as possible.

“We have a unique opportunity through TPP to raise the bar and set the standards, both for the Asia Pacific region, and more globally,” Froman said Thursday.  

Tags Michael Froman Shinzō Abe Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
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