TOKYO — U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest suggestion that he may be open to Washington re-entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will not alter Tokyo’s path toward signing the modified pact in March, the Japanese government said Friday.
“The TPP was pieced together and agreed to between 12 countries, including the United States, on the assumption that it basically would not be renegotiated,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told a press conference, referring to the original pact signed in February 2016.
After Trump signed an executive order withdrawing the United States in January 2017, the remaining 11 TPP members needed to tweak the deal to allow it to come into force.
They agreed earlier this week in Tokyo to sign a new pact on March 8 in Chile, opening the door for it to take effect as early as 2019.
“The terms of the TPP 11 have already been decided on, and we think our priority is bringing this TPP 11 into force,” TPP Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said on the 11-country agreement, while welcoming “the fact that the United States has recognized the significance of the TPP.”
“If asked, we will explain the terms of the TPP 11 to the United States,” he said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Motegi, “It would be good,” referring to Trump’s comment, as members of his Cabinet sat down for a photo opportunity before their meeting at Abe’s office.
Trump said Thursday during an interview with U.S. television network CNBC in Switzerland that he would consider rejoining the TPP under “substantially better” terms because the United States “had a horrible deal.”
Right after his inauguration in January last year, Trump pulled the world’s largest economy out of the TPP, then a 12-member free trade agreement championed by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Since Trump’s decision, Japan has played a significant role in negotiations for the TPP 11, while hoping that Washington will change course.
“We welcome President Trump’s first display of positive interest (in the pact), even though it comes with various conditions attached,” Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko said.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Japan “would like the United States to come back, but (first) we want to bring (the TPP 11) into force properly.”
The terms of the original pact “were negotiated and compiled with the United States included, and we have no particular intention of changing them,” Kono said.
The 11 other TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.