Japan, New Zealand leaders affirm commitment to future of TPP

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his New Zealand counterpart Bill English reiterated Wednesday in Tokyo their commitment to bringing the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact into force soon despite the withdrawal of its biggest signatory economy, the United States.

According to a joint press release, Abe and English “remain committed to maintaining the unity among the signatories and early entry into force of the TPP agreement.”

They also confirmed their continued cooperation in concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an Asia-Pacific trade deal under negotiation that excludes the United States but includes TPP nonsignatory China.

“As flag bearers of free trade, we will continue to work in close coordination to aim for the early realization of the TPP and the conclusion of a high-quality RCEP,” Abe said at a joint news conference after the summit.

But neither leader explicitly raised the possibility of bringing the pact into force without the United States, which pulled out in January after the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Japan and New Zealand are the only two of the TPP’s 12 Pacific Rim signatories to have ratified the pact so far.

Regarding other issues, in veiled caution to China, Abe and English called on parties to territorial disputes in the South China Sea to settle them in light of a 2016 ruling by an international arbitral tribunal. The tribunal found in favor of the Philippines, dismissing China’s sweeping claims to much of the strategically important sea.

They also urged North Korea to stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which in a statement they called “destabilizing and provocative actions.”

Additionally, Abe and English vowed to work together for the success of the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 and the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo.

English became prime minister last December after his predecessor John Key stepped down citing family reasons. English is scheduled to visit Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido on Thursday before leaving for Hong Kong.

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