Japan prods govt to join trade deal

Japan prods govt to join trade deal

Tokyo exploring closer Asean links

Japan hopes Thailand will reach a decision soon to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), Japan's foreign ministry said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai on Tuesday on his weeklong tour of Southeast Asia that also takes in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Yesterday marked his first official visit to Thailand after taking up his post in September last year.

Atsushi Kaifu, deputy press secretary at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Japan hopes Thailand will decide on whether to participate in the CPTPP soon. "The government of Thailand is reviewing some technical aspects of its future participation. The prime minister expressed his hope that once the internal situation in Thailand is clear, Thailand will pick Japan as the first country to be informed of its new decision," he told a press briefing.

The CPTPP, which came into force in Dec 2018, is a free trade agreement comprising Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Japan, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. US President Donald Trump backtracked on his commitment to the 12-member TPP in 2017. Mr Kaifu said Japan and Thailand also agreed that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) should be signed this year with the participation of 16 countries, including India.

He underlined the importance of the RCEP in the wake of the global economic slowdown because the trade deal covers a large part of the Indo-Pacific. "If markets are combined in a single system, it will create opportunities for development and prosperity," he added. At the regional level, the deputy press secretary said Japan and Asean are looking to synergise various initiatives, especially the Free and Open Indo-Pacific and the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). "Under the leadership of Thailand, Asean concluded the AOIP [at the 34th Asean Summit in June 2019]. Its philosophy overlaps with our ideas for the Indo-Pacific," he said.

Mr Kaifu said Japan is mobilising investment and a US$3 billion loan for Asean over the next three years and looking to work with Thailand on the development of the Mekong Region under Acmecs. He added Japan and Asean affirmed their commitment to tackling marine litter.

"Under Japan's G20 presidency last year, we concluded the Osaka Blue Ocean vision to step up efforts to fight marine plastic. They agreed to work together on this issue," he said. Japan and Thailand exchanged views on many international issues, especially the US-Iran crisis.

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