Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his resolve Thursday to achieve an early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, but he also said Japan will not easily concede to the United States in key parallel talks.
"We are having tough talks with the United States in the areas of agriculture and automobiles...We will not make any easy concessions," Abe said in a speech at a meeting of corporate executives and public policy experts, in which he also said his "Abenomics" stimulus policy mix will fail unless smaller companies regain sufficient confidence.
Japan and the United States, two leading members of the 12-nation TPP talks, which also involve Singapore and Australia, have been struggling to resolve their differences over tariffs and other issues in bilateral talks in parallel with the full TPP negotiations.
Without a deal between the two major economies, the TPP countries failed this month at a ministerial meeting to achieve a broad agreement on a free trade area that would account for around 40 percent of global economic output, as aimed for by the 12 members' leaders in October. They will continue talks into next year.
"We must resolve every issue for ambitious targets," Abe said, suggesting it will require the leaders of the negotiating countries to make political decisions at the very last stage of negotiations.
"I will tackle (the TPP talks) with the aim of concluding negotiations at an early date," Abe said, noting successful TPP talks are necessary for further growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.
The prime minister said he wants the United States to lead the negotiations by sharing such a "broad perspective" with Japan, apparently calling for the U.S. side to compromise on some issues to secure a TPP agreement.
Abe reiterated his desire to end at all costs Japan's nearly two decades of deflation and ensure sustainable growth with stronger capital spending and higher employment.
On Abenomics, which combines monetary and fiscal stimulus with deregulatory and other growth measures, Abe said he wants to see the continued recovery in sentiment among large companies permeate to smaller ones.
"I believe Abenomics will be seen as a failure unless the robust earnings of major companies spread across to small and medium-sized firms and people working there," Abe said.
The prime minister also said he hopes large companies will raise salaries for their workers, which would help secure a "virtuous economic cycle."