The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is encouraged by Japan’s announcement Friday that it would like to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multi-lateral trade talks.

The TPP would be a regional trade bloc composed of Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

“The U.S. pork industry strongly supports Japan’s entry into the TPP, and NPPC urges the United States and the other TPP countries to accede to Japan’s request,” says NPPC President Doug Wolf, a Lancaster, WI, pork producer. “Pork producers would gain tremendous market opportunities with Japan as part of the TPP.”

Japan already has free trade agreements with six of the nine TPP countries including Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Japan continues to be the no. 1 market for the U.S. pork industry. In 2010, the United States shipped $1.65 billion of pork to the Asian nation; in the first nine months of this year the United States has shipped $1.44 billion of pork products.

“Japan is our top market, but that market can be expanded through the TPP,” Wolf says. “And expanding existing markets and opening new ones are vital to the continued profitability of U.S. pork producers.”

Last year, the United States exported nearly $4.8 billion of pork, an amount that added about $56 to the price producers received for each hog marketed.