Despite these economic and strategic benefits, Noda's decision didn't come easy: free trade faces serious political obstacles in Japan, particularly from domestic farm and other groups who have long opposed further liberalization initiatives. So, given all of this, the United States responded to Noda's big, politically-risky announcement with excitement and encouragement, right?
Err, take it away, USTR Kirk:
The United States welcomes Prime Minister Noda’s important announcement expressing Japan’s intention to begin consultations with Trans-Pacific Partnership countries towards joining the TPP negotiations.... In close consultation with Congress and our domestic stakeholders, we look forward to engaging with the Japanese in these discussions. To join the negotiations, Japan must be prepared to meet the TPP's high standards for liberalizing trade and to address specific issues of concern to the United States regarding barriers to agriculture, services, and manufacturing trade, including non-tariff measures. Japan’s interest in the TPP demonstrates the economic and strategic importance of this initiative to the region.Translation: "Yeah, umm, thanks. We'll be in touch."
Gee, I wonder what could be holding back the Obama administration from openly and warmly embracing one of the largest economies in the world and one of our biggest allies?
Oh, right. That.