PM Abe: Japan will join TPP free trade talks

TOKYO - Japan has finally decided to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks, barely half a year before the negotiations are due to end.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a press conference here on Friday that Japan must quickly join the three-year-old talks so that it can play an active role in determining the rules for the new regional trade framework.

Mr Abe's announcement came after months of procrastination by Japan, in large part by the previous three Democrat-led administrations, whether to join the negotiations.

The last-minute decision by Japan comes amid deep concerns that the TPP will unleash a flood of cheap imports into Japan, weakening the country's heavily-protected farm sector in particular.

For instance, imported rice is currently subjected to a 778 per cent tariff, while sugar attracts 328 per cent.

Japanese industries are however in favour of Japan joining the TPP as it will open up more export markets for their products, sharpening their competitive edge.

The government estimates that joining the TPP will give Japan's gross domestic product a 3.2 trillion yen (S$41 billion) boost.

At the same time, it could lead to a decrease of 3 trillion yen in Japan's agricultural output, assuming tariffs are completely eliminated and the government takes no countermeasures, a situation, Mr Abe stressed, was unlikely to happen.