Japan said late last week it intends to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations, which could be a boon to the U.S. wheat and agricultural industries.

TPP negotiators recently concluded their ninth round of talks between countries that are currently part of the process, including the U.S., Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Canada and Mexico have also recently voiced interest in joining the growing negotiations, though it is unlikely the U.S. would see any direct benefit from their participation because preferences already exist under NAFTA.

Since approval of long-pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, attention has shifted to the TPP talks, which will almost certainly produce the next large, multilateral agreement benefiting the U.S.

The wheat industry – and ag exports generally – stand to see significant benefits from the talks if Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia join the talks. Japan is routinely one of the largest buyers of U.S. wheat, purchasing up to 10 percent of U.S. wheat exports worth an estimated $700 million.

At their recent meetings, the Boards of Directors for both NAWG and U.S. Wheat Associates, which represents the industry in trade negotiations, adopted a resolution supporting a comprehensive TPP agreement that provides improved market access and includes ambitious language on modern trade issues. The resolution also encouraged Japan, the Philippines and Indonesia to join the TPP framework.

The U.S. joined TPP talks in 2009. The Obama Administration has made a TPP agreement a key part of its trade agenda, and Administration officials have said they’d like to complete the overall negotiations within a year. Countries joining the talks could eventually represent more than 40 percent of world trade.

More about the TPP negotiations is at http://www.ustr.gov/tpp.