The United States has approved Japan's entry into talks on finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
Acting U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis announced the approval on Friday. He said the U.S. and Japan have agreed on key areas of concern, including actions in the automotive and insurance sectors and other non-tariff measures.
Marantis said inclusion of Japan in the trade pact will deliver major economic benefits. Japan has the world's third largest economy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Cabinet ministers on Friday his country's national interest is "firmly protected" in the agreement.
Japan's entry into the talks needs approval from the other 10 member nations. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Peru are yet to give consent.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is aimed at lowering tariffs in countries that account for about 40 percent of global trade. Member countries hope to complete negotiations later this year.