Thailand will likely decide whether to join a revised 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact around April, Japan's economy minister said on Monday.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, a state minister in charge of the TPP, told reporters after talks with Thai Deputy Minister Somkid Jatusripitak that he hopes current member countries will make a decision to start accession talks with Thailand at a ministerial meeting this summer.
Arrangements are being made for the TPP ministers' gathering in Mexico around August, according to Japanese officials.
The pact, formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, entered into force in December 2018 with the 11 members after the United States withdrew from the original TPP in January 2017.
So far, seven members -- Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam -- have ratified the pact while Chile, Peru, Brunei and Malaysia have yet to do so.
"It's preferable that we can start negotiations with Thailand after (the TPP) is ratified by as many countries as possible," Nishimura said, noting that Chile and Peru may soon finish domestic procedures.
Japanese manufacturers such as auto parts makers have their production bases in Thailand, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Britain, which left the European Union on Jan 31, is also eyeing joining the CPTPP. The move is backed by Japan, which has signed a free trade agreement with the European Union and a bilateral pact with the United States.