Obama To Urge Japan To Join Trans-Pacific Partnership

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets with President Obama at the White House Friday for discussions that will focus on both security and economic issues. The U.S. is pushing Japan to join a regional trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but Japan wants the U.S. to agree to special conditions first.


NPR's business news starts with a Japanese visit to the White House.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet with President Obama at the White House today. For Abe, the primary focus of the summit is re-vitalizing Japan's security alliance with the United States in the face of the threat from North Korea as well as tensions between Japan and China.

But as NPR's John Ydstie reports, the leaders will also discuss economic issues.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Trade, currency manipulation and energy are on the agenda, along with security issues. President Obama will urge the prime minister to bring Japan into the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade pact for highly developed economies on the Pacific Rim.

Dr. Sheila Smith, a Japan expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, says there are signs Abe is ready to join the Partnership, but he faces opposition, especially among agricultural interests in his own party.

DR. SHEILA SMITH: There's a question about just how much exemption there could be for sustaining Japan's indigenous rice production.

YDSTIE: President Obama will likely express concern about the recent sharp drop in the value of the yen. Japan has been accused of pushing the currency down to boost exports. Abe says it's the result of efforts to fight deflation.

Smith says that's a credible argument, but...

SMITH: I think we're going to have to watch and see how it's pursued, and I think it's going to have to be managed much more carefully than perhaps it's been managed in the last couple of months.

YDSTIE: Smith says Obama and Abe are also likely to discuss shipping U.S. shale gas to Japan to fill the energy gap left after its nuclear disaster.

John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.

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