Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday announced that Japan will join negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement to boost the domestic economy, despite strong opposition within his own Liberal Democratic Party and agriculture sector. "This is Japan's last chance to join the TPP talks. If we miss this opportunity, Japan will be left behind in global rule-setting efforts. Once joining the TPP talks, Japan will be able to lead the rule-setting," Abe told a news conference. "If Japan alone remains an inward-looking economy, there is no chance for growth. I believe joining the TPP talks will be the beginning of a new Japan," the peremier said. Abe also pledged to protect certain industries from cheap imports and ensure that the US-backed free trade deal will benefit farmers. Some lawmakers and farm groups have voiced opposition to joining the tariff-cutting pact due to concern that a massive flow of cheap food imports would damage Japan's heavily protected agriculture sector. On the other hand, the business community supports government's stance on the matter, stressing the need to achieve growth of the world's third-biggest economy by increasing their exports to other countries and expanding regional trade and investment.
The free trade pact was launched by Singapore, New Zealand, Chile and Brunei in 2006, and expanded to include seven other Asia-Pacific countries -- Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the US and Vietnam. According to the government, the TPP would boost Japan's gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.66 percent, or JPY 3.2 trillion (USD 33 billion) if all import tariffs are abolished with the 11 other TPP participants, offsetting possible negative impact on the agricultural sector.