Japan aims to expand CPTPP trade pact as UK, China eye membership


A screen grab taken from Vietnam Host Broadcaster's Nov 15, 2020 live video shows Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga standing next to Japan's Minister of Economics, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama as he signs the agreement during the signing ceremony for the RCEP trade pact at the Asean summit held online in Hanoi.- AFP

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan aims to expand a major regional free trade pact called the CPTPP, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Friday (Nov 20), potentially catering for China's and Britain's interest in joining the deal.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) links 11 countries including Canada, Australia and Japan.

"Japan will aspire for the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific through the early conclusion of the RCEP agreement and the steady implementation and expansion of the CPTPP as next year's chair," Suga said.

The premier made the comment in a pre-recorded video message delivered at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) CEO Dialogues, ahead of a leaders' virtual summit later in the day.

RCEP, or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, is the world's largest free trade deal signed this month by 15 economies, while the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific is potentially an even larger pact the 21-member APEC has been aspiring to.

A spokesman for the Chinese commerce ministry said on Thursday his country was open to the idea of joining the CPTPP, while Britain earlier this year announced its intent to pursue accession to the pact.

Suga, who became prime minister in September, reiterated his key policy priorities - digital transformation and reduction of greenhouse gases.

"As people's behavioural patterns shift due to COVID-19, accelerating digital transformation is crucial," he said.

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