Bringing Japan into the TPP Tent

John Neuffer photo

With Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, the chance for success and lasting economic opportunity has jumped manifold.  The TPP is about job creation, open markets, and fair competition.  We welcome Japan to the table, and think that this is an extremely important move not only for that nation, but also for all of the countries involved in the TPP.

This big step forward massively increases the agreement's potential strategic and commercial significance.  We also welcome the opportunity to get Japan in the TPP tent as it should help us to advance the on-going work in the negotiations on next-generation trade issues, such as cross-border data flows, cybersecurity, and privacy.

ITI serves as the co-chair of the ICT Working Group of the TPP Business Coalition.  Through that role, we are working in partnership with individual companies and other global organizations to drive pro-innovation and technology outcomes in the TPP talks.  Given its strong high-tech base, Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations should help to assure a final agreement that embraces the market opportunities which next-generation technologies offer the world’s economy.

Of course, we recognize that throwing another variable into the complicated calculus of the TPP carries some political and practical challenges, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that cannot be missed.  As our fourth-largest goods trading partner and the second largest economy in the TPP if it successfully joins the talks, Japan is too big and too important to be left out of the equation.

That’s clearly Prime Minister Abe’s mindset.  In announcing his decision, after long discussions with others in his government and business community, Abe warned that the status-quo would not result in a strong economic future for Japan.  A nation will not thrive in the 21st century economy by erecting barriers and relying on insular economics.

“We are watching the birth of an economic zone that will account for about a third of the world’s economy,” Abe said at a press conference in Tokyo today.  “If Japan alone remains inward-looking, it will have no opportunities for growth. Companies will not remain here and talented people will not want to work here.”

“The TPP is turning the Pacific Ocean into an inland sea and a huge economic zone,” Abe told reporters at his office.

With the just-completed 16th round of TPP talks in the rear-view mirror, the next big moment comes in mid-April, as TPP country officials will meet during the APEC Trade Ministers meeting in Surabaya, Indonesia.  The next round of formal negotiations is set for Lima, Peru, in mid-May. 

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