The Prime Minister is hoping to breathe new life into the Trans-Pacific Partnership during his two-day trip to Japan.
Bill English arrives in Japan this evening flanked by his trade minister and a business delegation.
Trade will be at the top of the agenda for his talks with the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe late Wednesday night.
Mr English said Japan appeared at least positive about a discussion about the TPP, the trade agreement between 12 countries which US President Donald Trump pulled out of.
"The indications over the last few months, when [Trade Minister] Todd McClay has been out on the road getting around these countries ... show some initiative to get the other 11 countries together.
"The atmosphere around that has been pretty positive, and Japan at least haven't said they won't."
Trade Minister Todd McClay said the TPP was still of value to New Zealand, which was why the government would continue to push the case.
"The New Zealand business community's asked us to go and fight for better access for them in these important markets, and a first trade deal for New Zealand with Japan will deliver jobs for the New Zealand economy."
The executive director of the International Business Forum, Stephen Jacobi, said Japan was clearly making the calculation that the United States would come back to the TPP in the future.
"And the best way of encouraging them to do that is to continute with TPP amongst the 11 remaining members or a subset thereof, and to proceed with all the ratification processes, Japan and New Zealand being the two countries now that have ratified TPP."
Mr Jacobi said Japan also wanted to use the TPP as a means to reform its economy which had been in the doldrums for some time.
New Zealand had in the past pushed for a Free Trade Agreement with Japan, but the Japanese had not been keen as they did not see enough in it for them.
"They would rather include New Zealand in a broader group, I think we have to accept that. Having tried so hard with that it's unlikely we're going to be able to do anything different in the future."
New Zealand Japan Business Council chair Ian Kennedy said there was a lot more to the relationship between the two countries than just trade.
He said sport was one area where there was huge potential.
"We've got the Rugby World Cup coming up in 2019 in Japan, where clearly New Zealand is the world leader in rugby, so there is a whole lot we can share there."
Mr English will head to the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido on Thursday morning, then on to Hong Kong later that evening.