Japan agreed Thursday with New Zealand and Singapore to work toward an expanded trans-Pacific free trade pact once it enters into force by year-end.
All three countries are members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pact covering around 10 percent of the world’s economy that was signed in March following an abrupt U.S. withdrawal.
The agreement was made as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met separately with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on the sidelines of meetings related to the Association of Southeast Nations.
As negotiations are under way for a different, more diverse trade pact that includes China and India, Abe also agreed with the New Zealand and Singaporean leaders to bring them to an early conclusion, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.
The 16 negotiating countries failed to reach a deal to create one of the world’s largest free trade zones under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership due to sharp divisions over tariff cuts and other politically sensitive issues.
In Singapore, Abe also met with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and confirmed closer coordination on North Korea’s denuclearization and other regional issues.
The Indonesian president expressed support for Abe’s efforts to resolve the issue of past abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s, according to the ministry.