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Japan briefed by TPP countries day after its TPP debut


Japan received a briefing by other members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations about the current status of the talks Wednesday, a day after becoming the 12th member.

Japan made its belated debut in the already over three-year-old negotiations on Tuesday, joining the 18th round of talks, being held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. The round began July 15 and ends Thursday.

With TPP countries aiming to conclude a deal by the end of the year, they held the "Japan session" in the afternoon and also plan to devote Thursday to brief Japanese negotiators to help Japan catch up with the negotiations.

The negotiations are aimed at creating a comprehensive free trade pact covering 21 different fields, including market access, which deal with tariffs eliminations Japan is keen to discuss.

"As Japan became a formal member state, we will take part from the same position as others and speak when necessary," Japan's chief negotiator Koji Tsuruoka said in the morning.

"As a session specially arranged for Japan will be held in the afternoon, we expect to ask various questions and present our opinions there," he said.

The country is seeking to protect its sensitive agriculture products by retaining tariffs on those products while expanding exports of its manufactured goods.

Japanese negotiators attended meetings of four working groups -- on rules of origin, the environment, government procurement, and legal and institutional issues -- while Tsuruoka attended the chief negotiator session.

On the sidelines of the talks, the Japanese government held a briefing session for some 20 Japanese stakeholders including agriculture and business organizations. Their delegates could not take part in stakeholder meetings held last week prior to Japan's official participation in the TPP talks.

"We will provide you information that can be provided," said Kazuhisa Shibuya, Japan's deputy chief domestic coordinator for TPP negotiations. He also called on stakeholders to share the information they have gathered separately from other stakeholders.

"Japan joined the negotiations just yesterday. They (government officials) are still reading texts (of past negotiations) and do not have much information to share yet," said a stakeholder delegate who attended the session.

Japan gained access to documents, believed to run to thousands of pages, after official admission to the negotiating table was secured following completion of the United States' domestic procedures to start trade talks with the country.

The roughly 100-member Japanese delegation that arrived in the Malaysian resort will have to sift through the massive amount of documents in the limited time available in order to get the most out of the round, according to Japanese officials.

Aside from Japan, the TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.