Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced that Tokyo wants to join talks on an ambitious, U.S.-led free trade deal in an effort to revitalize the country's faltering economy.
Tokyo's government estimates that participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would boost Japan's gross domestic product by almost .7 percent, or $31 billion a year.
The inclusion of the world's third largest economy also would give a much-needed boost to the TPP. Including Japan, the United States and 10 other countries, the TPP would account for 40 percent of the world's GDP.
Talks on the pact are aimed at reducing tariffs and other steps to reduce non-tariff trade barriers.
Participation in the trade pact is highly controversial in Japan. Many big businesses say it will boost their competitiveness by giving them easier access to export markets. But many farmers say reducing tariffs would make them unable to compete with cheap imports.
Prime Minister Abe has made the pact part of his three-pronged economic policy, known as "Abenomics." The strategy has also involved easing monetary policy and boosting public spending.
Washington says it aims to finalize negotiations on the TPP by the end of the year. It is not clear how Japan's inclusion in the pact would affect that timing.