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Japan names deputy foreign minister as TPP chief negotiator

The Japanese government announced Tuesday that it has appointed
a deputy foreign minister as chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific
Partnership free trade pact, with an eye to bringing the deal into
force without the United States.

Keiichi Katakami takes up the post while concurrently serving in
his deputy ministerial role. The post of the TPP chief negotiator has
been vacant as his predecessor Hiroshi Oe became the head of the
Japanese diplomatic mission at the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development in February.

The appointment of a vice-ministerial-level bureaucrat to chief
negotiator reflects Japan's eagerness to take the lead in making the
mega free trade pact, once signed by 12 nations, take effect among
the remaining 11 countries, a source close to the matter said.

The United States withdrew from the multilateral agreement in
January as President Donald Trump prefers bilateral trade deals.

Katakami was the director general of the Foreign Ministry's
Economic Affairs Bureau when Japan joined the TPP negotiations in

He became deputy foreign minister in charge of economic affairs
in June last year, after assuming posts such as ambassador to the
European Union.

The 11-party TPP is likely to be discussed at a meeting of their
chief negotiators in Canada in early May, and at a gathering of their
trade ministers in Vietnam around May 20 on the sidelines of an
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting.

The TPP was signed in February 2016 by Australia, Brunei,
Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore,
the United States and Vietnam -- covering around 40 percent of global
gross domestic product.

Under the current rules, the TPP's implementation requires
ratification by nations accounting for 85 percent of the combined GDP
of the 12 member countries. The deal was therefore effectively dead
in the wake of the withdrawal of the United States because the
country represents over 60 percent of the trade bloc's GDP. (April 25)