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International relations

Abe sees hope for Trump change of heart on TPP

But Japan's leader warns that big tweaks to the treaty are not in the cards

Abe encouraged Trump to join the TPP during their April summit at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed hope Thursday that the U.S. will return to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying that President Donald Trump's stance has "changed a lot over the past year."

Abe told lower house lawmakers that he has sought to persuade Trump of the advantages of participating in the Pacific Rim trade and investment pact whenever the two leaders met. "His understanding has probably deepened," the prime minister said.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP shortly after his January 2017 inauguration. But he has expressed interest since early this year in rejoining the deal if it were renegotiated. The remaining 11 member countries reworked the agreement into the Comprehensive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was signed in March.

Japan is not keen on further changes. Abe has stated that he cannot make any further concessions on agricultural issues, citing promises to farmers. He has also been leery of renegotiating rules in areas such as intellectual property, calling the existing framework a delicate piece of "glasswork" that cannot be changed easily.

Tokyo will inquire about Washington's current thinking on the TPP during their new dialogue on "free, fair and reciprocal" trade, Abe said.

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