BBC: Why trade tops the agenda as Abe meets Obama

04/28/2015

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By: LINDA YUEH  | 4/28/2015 | Source: BBC

Why trade tops the agenda as Abe meets Obama

Could the biggest free trade area in the world be announced this week?

Well, that’s the ambition that sits at the top of the agenda as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe undertakes a week-long trip to Washington, though a final announcement is unlikely to be this week.

Abe’s visit is being termed historic as he is the first Japanese PM to be invited to address both houses of Congress on Wednesday, and any remarks that he makes on the 70th anniversary of World War Two will be closely monitored.

Yet for Abe and perhaps also US President Barack Obama, it’s their progress on a trade deal that is at the top of the agenda.

Abe has said that they are near agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would create the largest free trade area in the world, linking the countries in Asia Pacific ranging from central America to southeast Asia. I’ve written before about the ambitious TPP, which notably excludes China – a notable exception at that.

Given all of Japan’s economic challenges – struggle to defeat deflation as price increases have fallen back to zero – and low productivity to name a few, would a trade pact really make a huge difference?

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