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Originally published Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 4:03 PM

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Editorial: Let Japan join Trans-Pacific Partnership

The free-trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership has Japan’s attention. Opportunities abound for all parties, including the U.S.

Seattle Times Editorial

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EXPANDING trade in the Asia Pacific region is too big an opportunity to miss, even for the world’s third-largest economy. Japan wants in on the action.

Powerful domestic economic interests in Japan resist the country joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made it clear he wants in.

“If Japan alone continues to look inward, we will have no hope for growth,” Abe said last Friday. “This is our last chance. If we don’t seize it, Japan will be left out.”

The opportunities cut both ways. Knocking down Japan’s tariffs and trade barriers opens a lucrative new market for the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

The news received bipartisan applause from Washington’s congressional delegation.

“This high-standard, 21st-century agreement holds significant promise for Washington businesses, farmers, workers and services providers,” said Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn. He wants a comprehensive agreement, with a level playing field for all sectors.

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, shares the enthusiasm:

“If done right, TPP will promote innovation, high labor standards, help small and medium-sized businesses participate, and allow our country and the Pacific Northwest to more actively compete in international markets.”

Opportunities include high-tech, manufacturing, insurance and financial services.

Microsoft is among those expressing support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its goal of completing a 21st-century trade agreement.

Prime Minister Abe might face more resistance at home than he does in an international community that sees growth in a well-negotiated trade-liberalization pact.

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