13 Nov 2011

Key welcomes Japan interest in joining trade talks

12:22 pm on 13 November 2011

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key warns it might be difficult for Japan to overcome domestic opposition and join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

But if it does, he says it would mean a huge opportunity for New Zealand, which faces tariffs on many of its exports to Japan.

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Japan signalled on Friday that it wants to join the TPP negotiations, which already involve nine countries - including New Zealand and the United States - and cover intellectual property and investment as well as trade.

John Key says getting Japan involved in the negotiations would be good for exporters.

"The market in Japan is a very large market for what we produce and, currently, we face quite big tariffs and quotas going into Japan. So for our market in terms of agriculture, there would be enormous opportunities for us."

However, he warns there is a strong protectionist lobby in Japan and there is no certainty it will join the talks.

"It's been a real no-go area. The DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan) have been mooting the case and certainly Naoto Kan raised that with me when he was Prime Minister a few months ago.

''But whether they'd really get it through, I don't know,'' he said. ''There's a lot of water to go under that bridge."

Mr Key said Japan is not the only country interested in the proposed deal, as Canada and Mexico are also showing interest.

If Japan does enter the TPP negotiations, he said New Zealand is likely to give up its efforts to negotiate a country-to-country deal with it.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership already includes New Zealand Brunei, Chile and Singapore.

The US, Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Peru are negotiating to join, while China says it will consider joining, if invited.