Japan should join Trans-Pacific Partnership talks – US chem group

22 March 2013 20:38  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The American Chemistry Council (ACC) is among the several trade groups that would welcome Japan in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), it said on Friday.

The partnership intends to eliminate not just tariffs but other barriers to trade, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

So far, the partnership negotiations include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam, the office said.

If Japan joins, it would become the 12th nation.

Recently, Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, called on his country to join in the negotiations.

Japan already is among the top five markets for US chemical exports, according to Greg Skelton, the senior director of global affairs for the ACC.

Japan's entry into the partnership could eliminate the remaining chemical tariffs and other trade barriers, Skelton said.

Japan's inclusion would also increase the size the trade bloc, which would have a GDP more than 40% larger than the EU, he said.

Plus, Japan's inclusion should benefit the nation's economy, he said. Quoting government figures, Skelton said that the partnership would increase Japan's economy by $33bn (€25bn), or about 1%.

The partnerships, as well as other free-trade agreements, stand to benefit US chemical producers, since they are already among the most competitive in the world because of their energy and feedstock advantages, Skelton said.

The chemical industry is one of the largest exporting sectors in the US, he said. Last year, chemical exports totalled nearly $189bn in 2012, accounting for 12% of all US exports.

The US Trade representative also welcomed Japan's interest in joining the partnership.

“Since early last year, the US has been engaged with Japan in bilateral TPP consultations on issues of concern with respect to the automotive and insurance sectors and other non-tariff measures, and also conducting work regarding meeting TPP’s high standards," according to a statement by Demetrios Marantis, acting US trade representative.

“While we continue to make progress in these consultations, important work remains to be done. We look forward to continuing these consultations with Japan as the 11 TPP countries consider Japan’s candidacy for this vital initiative in the Asia-Pacific region," Marantis said.

Japan is also a major consumer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and some observers view the move as a faster way to take US LNG to the prospective Asian energy consumer.

However, before Japan can officially join the partnership, the US Trade Representative's Office will first engage in a series of bilateral consultations on the two countries' trade agreements, including the topic of energy.

How long the consultations could take is unclear. A series of negotiation rounds is scheduled before the end of 2013.

The next round of TPP negotiations, the 17th set of discussions, is scheduled from 15-24 May in Lima, Peru.

Additional reporting by Ruth Liao

($1 = €0.77)

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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