Trade Ministers of the 11 Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries have unanimously agreed to Japan’s participation in the negotiations.

The ministers will finalise the process for entry in a manner that allows for the talks to continue expediently towards conclusion with Japan, as was done with the other members that joined the negotiations in progress.

The ministers also confirmed that each TPP member had concluded bilateral consultations with Japan on its interest in joining the TPP.

The ministers met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade in Surabaya to chart the path forward on remaining issues and to enable them to conclude the negotiations on a 2013 timeframe as instructed by TPP leaders. They also discussed the status of their negotations with Japan about its interest in joining the TPP, according to a joint statement by the members, comprising Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

The countries are negotiating what will be the world’s largest regional free trade agreement.

The next round of negotations will be held in Lima, Peru from 15 – 24 May, and the ministers agreed on the next steps to advance the TPP talks in a range of areas.

Directing negotiators to complete their work on some chapters and to expedite progress on more challenging issues that remain, including intellectual property, competition/state-owned enterprises and environment as well as on market access packages for goods, services/investment and government procurement, the ministers are committed to intensifying their own engagement over the coming months to work out solutions to outstanding sensitive issues and achieve the TPP leaders’ objective of a high-quality, ambitious and comprehensive agreement this year.