17 Mar 2013

NZ businesses welcome Japan's TPP interest

7:31 am on 17 March 2013

The head of a group of New Zealand business leaders says Japan's bid to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations is an opportunity to gain greater access to the world's third largest economy.

The agreement, known as TPP, is a free trade deal being negotiated by 11 countries including New Zealand, the United States and Australia.

Japan - the world's third-largest economy - wants to be the 12th nation.

The chair of the International Business Forum, Sir Graeme Harrison, says Japan has for some time been the missing link in terms of New Zealand's network of free trade agreements.

He says the problem has been the import restrictions Japan places on agricultural products, with high tariffs on dairy produce, and a 38.5% tariff on beef imports.

New Zealand United States Council chairman Jim Bolger says Japan's entry into the TPP potentially increases both the negotiations' coverage and its economic impact.

Mr Bolger says Japan's entry also makes the negotiations more complex but they must be concluded as soon as possible.

Japan is New Zealand's fourth largest bilateral trading partner, with two-way trade worth NZ$6.1 billion in 2011.

Acting Trade Minister Steven Joyce has also welcomed Japan's interest and says New Zealand expects TPP ministers will want to discuss next steps regarding Japan's possible entry to the negotiations when they meet next month as part of the APEC Trade Ministers meeting in Indonesia.

US positive too

Japan had signalled its interest in joining the talks earlier in the week and announced on Friday it would be formally seeking to take part.

The United States cautiously welcomed the announcement but emphasised that Tokyo must demonstrate willingness to tackle longstanding trade barriers to US goods and services.

Negotiators hope to conclude that pact by the end of year, and possibly as early as the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting in October.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being hailed as one of the most ambitious plans in the Asia Pacific region.

The full list of countries currently involved in negotiating an agreement is: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.