Canada said it planned to study a growing US-backed trans-Pacific trade pact but has not yet decided whether it served its interests to join the negotiations.
Japan announced Friday ahead of an Asia-Pacific summit that it would join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in a major boost to the once-obscure proposed pact that now covers some 35 percent of the global economy.
Asked how Japan's decision affected Canada, Minister of International Trade Ed Fast said that his government is following developments "very closely" but would only enter into talks if it believed that the TPP would be beneficial.
"We're certainly interested in exploring what Canadian involvement in that process would entail. At this point in time, we haven't yet made the determination of whether it's in the best interest of Canada," Fast told reporters.
US President Barack Obama is expected to announce the broad outlines of the TPP during the weekend summit in Hawaii, although most analysts believe it will take years before the ambitious trade pact could come to fruition.
Besides Japan and the United States, the TPP involves Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The Obama administration has cast the TPP as a 21st-century agreement that protects labor rights and environmental standards, but it has faced opposition from farm groups and anti-globalization activists in several countries.