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Japan welcomes Britain's willingness to join TPP, pledges support

Britain's Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, left, is escorted by Japanese Minister of Economic Revitalization Toshimitsu Motegi, right, at their meeting in Tokyo, on July 31, 2018. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will support Britain in joining the Trans-Pacific partnership accord as both countries seek to promote free and rules-based trade, Japanese economy revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday.

During talks in Tokyo, British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox expressed Britain's desire to join the TPP, and Japan offered to provide necessary information and to act as an intermediary, according to Motegi.

"Your expression of interest (in joining the TPP) is a great encouragement to our efforts to attach importance to a free trade system based on rules and to fight protectionism," Motegi said at the outset of the talks.

The British government has shown interest in joining the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade framework, formally known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

"We see both the UK's potential accession to CPTPP and the enhancement of the EU-Japan EPA (economic partnership agreement) into a new and stronger relationship as being the basis of our economic cooperation," Fox said.

Tokyo has been promoting the benefits of multilateral trade deals after the abrupt U.S. withdrawal from the original TPP. This month it signed a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Motegi told reporters after the meeting that Britain's participation would help promote multilateral trade systems that are "free, fair and rules-based."

Japan, now the leading economy in the framework, and the other existing members are seeking to open its doors to new comers amid the rise of protectionist moves under U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" policy.

The pact, signed in March, will enter into force 60 days after at least six signatories complete necessary domestic procedures, and only then can talks begin on including additional members.

Already Japan, Mexico and Singapore have ratified the pact, and New Zealand, Australia and Vietnam are expected to follow within this year.

Other CPTPP members are Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia and Peru. Altogether, the members account for about 13 percent of the world' total gross domestic product.

Aside from Britain, Thailand, Indonesia, Colombia, South Korea and Taiwan have also indicated interest in joining the framework.

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