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Japan has indicated it wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership regional free-trade pact but an economist says this could impact New Zealand’s exports to Japan, TV3 reported.

Trade Minister Tim Groser has welcomed Japan’s intention to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) but an economist is warning it could pose problems for New Zealand.

Japan has announced it has asked to join talks on the Asia-Pacific regional free trade pact – which currently comprises nine countries, including New Zealand and the US.

Groser says that having such an economic heavyweight as Japan would be of immense significance to the TPP and was a positive message in a time of global economic uncertainty.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English will discuss membership when the TPP countries meet in Hawaii on Sunday.

But Council of Trade Unions economist Bill Rosenberg warned Japan wanting to to join the TPP could complicate the process “quite considerably” – negotiations have already been running for a number of years.

“It’s not Brunei coming to the table, it’s Japan,” he said of the country which is the world’s third largest economy and New Zealand’s fourth largest export market, taking $3.4 billion of our exports in 2010.

Japan’s prime minister has promised to protect local farmers from a flood of cheap agricultural products from overseas – which would include New Zealand produce.

Dr Rosenberg said if Japan demanded protection for it own farmers, then the US could also demand the same privileges, and that would make it harder for New Zealand’s agricultural exports.

On the other hand, if Japan allowed more agricultural imports there was a question whether we could expand production without suffering dire environmental consequences.

The TPP has come under fire for the threat it poses to New Zealand’s drug-buying agency Pharmac, with accusations US drug companies will use it to control the prices of drugs.

Dr Rosenberg was not aware of Japan’s position on pharmaceuticals but said that with its big corporations it could “up the ante” in areas not thought of as trade, such as the ability of companies to sue governments.

Source: TV3


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