Japan says it is open to a bilateral trade agreement with the US following Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership. Japanese President Shinzo Abe told parliament on 26 January that it was not absolutely impossible that the two countries could agree on a free trade agreement.

"Japan will continue to stress the US the importance of the TPP but it is not totally unfeasible for talks on EPA [Economic Partnership Agreement] and FTA [Free Trade Agreement]," Abe said, adding that he was finalising negotiations for a summit with Trump.

Earlier this week, the PM said he would refrain from speculating about Trump's trade policy until his cabinet line-up was approved and policies became clearer. On Monday, Trump signed an executive order removing the US from the 12-nation TPP, but Japan is hopeful that its ties can be maintained through Trump's preferred two-way trade deals.

Abe plans to discuss the South China Sea and East China Sea issues during his summit and strengthen its own defence system. "I want to strengthen the deterrent power of the entire US-Japan alliance," he said. "We must think about our own deterrence in the context of our defence-only policy and within the framework of the alliance."

Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – the remaining members of the TPP are expected to hold talks in March to deal with the US exit. Australia has already suggested that China take the place of the US in the multilateral trade pact, an option that Japan is open to despite fears that it would increase China's power in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is open to China joining the TPP REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian