The National Pork Producers Council welcomed Japan's request to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and urged the United States and other TPP countries to swiftly accept the Asian nation into the regional trade talks. On March 15, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his country's intention to participate in the negotiations.

The TPP is a regional trade negotiation that includes the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, which account for a combined 30% of global GDP. Japan already has free trade agreements with seven of the 11 TPP countries: Brunei, Chile, Malasia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

"The addition of Japan to the negotiations will exponentially increase the importance of the TPP to pork producers and to other sections of the U.S. economy," says NPPC President Randy Spronk, a pork producer from Edgerton, MN. "Japan's entry into the negotiations will spur interest in the TPP among other countries in Asia and Latin America, and it will signal to other nations that efforts to negotiate more open and transparent trading arrangements will continue, even as multilateral efforts to do so are stymied."

Japan's economy is second only to China's in the region, and it is the fourth largets U.S. agricultural export market overall. U.S. food and agricultural exports to Japan in 2012 totaled $13.5 billion. Japan is the top-value export market for U.S. pork, accounting for almost $2 billion in 2012 sales.

"We call on the United States and the other TPP countries to quickly welcome Japan into the TPP. We look forward to working closely with the Obama administration and Congress to fashion an agreement that pork producers can strongly endorse," Spronk says.