Japan to join US-led trade talks

Updated: 2011-10-21 09:54


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TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is set to give US President Barack Obama a pledge in November that Japan will join rule-making talks on a US-led free trade initiative and ease its self-imposed ban on arms exports, a newspaper said on Friday.

Noda will make the commitment when he meets Obama at Nov 12-13 summit of Asia-Pacific leaders in Hawaii, the Sankei daily said, citing unnamed senior government officials.

Japanese businesses, hampered by a firmer yen, are pushing for Japan to join the trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but the government is facing stiff opposition from the farming sector, which is protected by high tariffs.

With little progress made in Japan's effort to secure a new site for the planned relocation of a US air base on Japan's southern island of Okinawa, Japan finds itself with little choice but to accept outstanding US demands, the paper said.

Japan's arms export ban in principle prohibits the nation's defence contractors joining multinational arms projects, an increasingly popular way to develop weapons to spread research and development costs amid tighter defence budgets.

Japanese Defence Minister Yasuo Ichikawa told Reuters this month he expected a government decision on the possible easing on the ban before long.

Japan and the United States agreed in 1996 to close Futenma Air Station if a replacement could be found on the island.

In the election that swept the Democratic Party of Japan to power 2009, then-party leader Yukio Hatoyama raised the prospect of the air base leaving Okinawa.

But with no viable alternative site, Tokyo and Washington agreed last year to stick to the 2006 plan to shift Futenma to a less crowded area on Okinawa, angering residents who associate US bases with noise, pollution and crime.