TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari said on Tuesday Japan and the Unites States are in the final stage of consultations about Japan joining Trans-Pacific trade talks.
He also said a gap between the United States and Japan on sensitive issues such as agriculture and automakers had been narrowing.
Japan expressed its commitment last month to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and is waiting for a formal decision by the 11 current members, which could come this month.
Last Friday, the Japanese government set up a task force to speed up talk with the TPP member nations. The task force started with 65 government officials but will expand to about 100, including experts from the private sector such as lawyers.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Monday he supported Japan's bid to join trade talks in the Asia-Pacific region that would create the world's largest free trade zone.
New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser said it was possible that Japan's bid would be approved when trade ministers from the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum meet in Indonesia on April 20-21.
Other countries in the trade talks include Canada, Australia, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. The addition of the world's third-largest economy would expand the pact to cover nearly 40 percent of the world's economic output.