May 3, 2015

Japanese Prime Minister Travels To Washington To Promote Trans-Pacific Partnership

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Washington last week to call for a quick conclusion to negotiations on, and approval of, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal. In remarks to a joint session of Congress, Prime Minister Abe said, “Let us bring the TPP to successful conclusion through our joint leadership. The TPP goes beyond just economic benefit. It is also about our security. Long-term, its strategic value is awesome.” 

During Abe’s visit, President Barack Obama argued TPP is necessary to curtail China’s global influence. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the president said, “If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules out in that region … We will be shut out – American businesses and American agriculture. That will mean a loss of U.S. jobs.” (The New York Times last week said China has been “silent” lately about the potential trade agreement.) 

As a reminder, negotiations on TPP have not included a discussion of currency manipulation. The countries currently involved in TPP negotiations are: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam. 

Negotiators for the various countries will meet again in Guam from May 15-25. Trade ministers for the countries will then meet in the Philippines from May 26-28. Meanwhile, Japan’s manufacturing sector contracted in April. The Markit purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for Japan indicated new orders were down for the second month in a row and the rate of employment growth in the sector remained weak.