Friday’s meeting was an opportunity for the U.S. to gauge Tokyo’s intent to join negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a regionwide free-trade pact pushed by Washington.
Abe held back from such a commitment that could prove politically risky before key elections in July for the upper house of the legislature, known as the Diet. Joining TPP is opposed by most of his party and Japan’s small but politically powerful farming lobby.
However, a joint statement said the two leaders had agreed to continue their talks about Japan’s ‘‘possible interest’’ in joining TPP. It appeared to offer some new wiggle room for Abe. It acknowledged sensitivities for Japan on certain agricultural products and for some manufactured products for the U.S.
The statement said that while all goods would be subject to negotiation, a prior commitment to eliminate all tariffs was not required.