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Sunday, Nov. 14, 2010

Foreign media search for signs of future stance on TPP


Staff writer

YOKOHAMA — Foreign journalists who gathered Saturday in Yokohama to cover the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit are closely watching for indications of Japan's future stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the government having deferred a decision amid strong opposition from lawmakers and farmers.

News photo
Taking time: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Naoto Kan meet Saturday on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Yokohama. AP PHOTO

"The goal of free trade in the region still looks blurry," said Dwi Anggia Ritmadhini of Indonesia's ANTV television network, who only arrived in Japan on Friday night after covering the Group of 20 summit in Seoul.

Indonesia hosted the 1994 APEC summit, when participating countries adopted the Bogor Goals on trade and investment liberalization and set a deadline of 2010 for developed nations and some developing economies to realize them.

Ritmadhini said she will report on Japan's stance in order to evaluate how APEC's industrialized members are progressing toward trade liberalization. Indonesia is one of the developing countries that were given a 2020 deadline for realizing the Bogor Goals.

However, the industrialized countries "haven't achieved the goals yet (even though) it's been 16 years," she said.

Sergio Espinosa V., editor-in-chief of major Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, said Chilean media are paying close attention to whether Prime Minister Naoto Kan will say something concrete on the TPP.

The free-trade pact, which started off as a small regional bloc among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, has emerged as a key framework that could become a crucial stepping stone for the U.S.-proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, involving all 21 APEC economies. Since the U.S. expressed its intention to join the TPP, other countries, including Australia, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam, declared their interest in joining negotiations.

"It'll be beneficial" for Chile if Japan joins the TPP, Espinosa said. "Japan is a restricted market for agriculture. How to open the agriculture sector in Japan is an issue."

He said Chile has good trade relations with China and South Korea as their markets are open for its main export items, including copper, wine, vegetables, meat and salmon. However, he said Chile has "problems" in trading with Japan, referring to the high tariffs on some agricultural products.

"That's one of the reasons why Japan is no longer our main partner in Asia," he said, adding that news about Japan is now seldom aired in Chile, whereas coverage of China has increased recently.

"China has become by far the principal partner (for Chile), and for all the other Latin American countries," he said.

Ubaidillah Bin Masli of The Brunei Times said: "The more participants the better. If Japan wants to join us, it's great news because Japan is such a big economy in Asia-Pacific.

"What Prime Minister Kan says about the TPP will affect Brunei."



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