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Japan PM says free trade talks with U.S. possible

Reuters

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday it was possible Tokyo and Washington could hold bilateral free trade talks in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this week.

Fulfilling a campaign pledge Trump signed an executive order on Monday pulling the United States out of the TPP and distancing Washington from its Asian allies. Trump said the TPP would rob Americans of jobs and investment.

"Japan will continue to stress the U.S. the importance of the TPP but it is not totally unfeasible for talks on EPA(Economic Partnership Agreement) and FTA (Free Trade Agreement)" with the United States, Abe told parliament after asked about trade talks between the two nations.

Asked about talks on a U.S.-Japan trade deal on Wednesday, Abe said he would refrain from speculating about Trump's trade policy until his cabinet line-up was approved and policies became clearer. Trump has made clear he favors two-way trade deals over multilateral ones.

The remaining 11 TPP nations -- Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam -- are expected to hold talks in March to try and salvage the multilateral trade pact.

Australia has suggested China as a possible TPP member, replacing the United States, but Beijing has its own multilateral trade pact and Japan is cool on the idea. Many Asian nations had seen the TPP as a counterbalance to China's growing power in the region.

(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa, writing by Kaori Kaneko; Editing by Michael Perry)

 

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