Commerce chief: U.S. eager for bilateral trade agreement

Seko also told reporters that he would exchange information on Toshiba 6502.T issue if Ross asks to do so.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has expressed eagerness to start negotiations with Japan at an early date for a Japan-U.S. FTA, saying the United States considers it a "very high priority" to forge such a deal with Japan.

The TPP was signed past year with the aim of achieving high-level trade and investment liberalisation, but President Donald Trump cast it adrift days after he took office in January, as he prefers to negotiate bilateteral deals.

As the outlook for the TPP is uncertain, Japan, which is aiming to expand free trade for growth in its export-oriented economy, has also promoted talks on the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes the 10 Asean states plus China, Japan, India, Soyuth Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Japan is looking to get the United States back on track as regards the aborted TPP deal, and will be asking Washington to show some sort of commitment to Asia-Pac Free Trade.

Tokyo sees the TPP, which would have covered 40% of all global trade, as a "gold standard" of trade deals, given its inclusion of provisions not usually found in most trade deals, such as labor standards and governance and transparency standards.

In a shift in its calculations, Japan is now working to resurrect the pact with just 11 members, local media reported yesterday.

On Saturday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated Tokyo's readiness to proceed with TPP implementation while ensuring U.S. understanding, saying in an interview with Kyodo News, "We have a feeling that the 11-nation framework should be given weight".

Japan chose to move forward with the pact after it became clear that the USA would not oppose such an arrangement, Nikkei Asian Review reported.

It remains unclear whether a "TPP-lite" agreement without the United States would be of much use or interest to countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. A spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry said that during a meeting with TPP parties last month in Chile, "Singapore said that we hope to harvest the benefits of the agreement in a timely way". Malaysia and Vietnam may be more reluctant to proceed as they joined and made concessions under the assumption that the USA would be involved.

"We have a longtime relationship with Japan", the White House official said.

In an apparent reversal of its previous position, Japan may yet go ahead with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, even after the exit of a core member.

The US wants to focus on bilateral trade but Japan is said to be reluctant due to concern that it will be pressured to open up its farming and auto sectors.

  • Zachary Reyes