HONOLULU: Canada, Mexico and at least two other countries have expressed interest in joining US-led talks for a pan-Pacific trade pact, a US Republican lawmaker said on Friday after Japan asked to take part.
“There’s a good deal of momentum for the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership),” Representative Kevin Brady said after meetings with members of President Barack Obama’s administration at the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
That momentum was evidenced by Japan’s announcement earlier on Friday that it was interested in joining the talks “and what seem to be very solid inquiries from Canada, Mexico and a few others,” Brady said.
Brady said he was told the Philippines and Papua New Guinea also expressed interest in joining the negotiations that now include the United States and eight other members of APEC.
New countries joining the TPP talks would underline the importance of a regional pact as a vehicle for fostering free trade when global talks have all but failed. Japan in the TPP would create a potential market at least 40 percent larger than the 27-nation European Union.
Obama and leaders from the eight other TPP countries — Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile and Peru — will meet on Saturday to discuss progress so far in the talks.
Brady, a leader of the APEC caucus in the House of Representatives and chairman of a trade subcommittee, said he hoped the leaders would set a goal of concluding a deal by mid-2012 but said he did not know if they would.
Adding new members could slow the process significantly. Brady said Japan and any country that wants to join at this point “is going to have to speed up and merge.”