Abe says Japan wants in on pan-Pacific trade talks

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that Japan wants to take part in talks aimed at forging a huge free trade agreement that could involve 40 percent of the world's economy.

"I have decided to join negotiations for the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Abe told a news conference. "The vast Pacific Ocean is becoming an inland sea for a huge economic bloc."

"What the TPP is aiming to achieve is to make the Pacific Ocean a sea where goods, services and investment are freely exchanged.

"A huge economic bloc that would account for roughly a third of the world economy is about to begin."

Abe, whose hard-headed economic pragmatism has earned him plaudits in the three months since he came to office, said Japan could not afford to let an opportunity like the TPP pass by.

"Right now Japan is facing huge challenges -- an ageing population, a low birthrate and lingering deflation.

"Without you knowing, Japan is becoming introverted at a time when many countries have shifted their view to win growth overseas."

In a nod to the geopolitics of the agreement, which is seen by some as a way for the US to contain China's rising economic might, Abe said Japan's participation would also boost important relationships.

"Joining the negotiations is not only an economic benefit for our country. But it is also an opportunity to create a new economic forum with our ally, the United States, with whom we share values."

Washington has been keen to get Japan on board because of the economic heft its participation lends to the project.