WASHINGTON – The United States and Japan have concluded a deal that paves the way for Japan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

The talks have been under way for three years, and Japan hopes to join the negotiations in July. TPP member nations could formally decide to allow Japan into the talks before the end of April. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association said its membership is encouraged by the Obama administration’s announcement to include Japan in TPP negotiations.

“Japan is an important ally to the United States and we hope this will strengthen the ties between our two nations,” said Bob McCan, NCBA president-elect. “We urge the US government and the government of Japan to continue working together to establish international trade standards based on sound science and market-driven principles. The TPP has the potential to be a new era in global trade where all TPP countries can compete for consumer demand without the hindrance of protectionism.”

In the separate deal to let Japan into the trade talks, the two countries agreed that US tariffs on imports of Japanese motor vehicles will be phased out, while Japan will more than double the number of automobiles eligible under the country's Preferential Handling Procedure (PHP). The change will make it easier for the US to export automobiles to Japan. US automakers also will be allowed to export up to 5,000 vehicles annually, an increase from the current amount of 2,000 vehicles.

Additionally, the deal allows for parallel negotiations about non-tariff barriers and other issues such as regulatory transparency and food safety rules.

“Since November 2011, the United States has been engaged in consultations with Japan focused on Japan’s readiness to meet the TPP's high standards for liberalizing trade and investment, and to address specific bilateral issues of concern in the automotive and insurance sectors, as well as other Japanese non-tariff measures,” said Acting US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis.

“The United States and Japan have successfully completed these consultations by concluding a robust package of actions and agreements with Japan in the automotive and insurance sectors, as well as other non-tariff measures. As a result, we are pleased to welcome Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations pending a consensus agreement among the current TPP members and the completion of our respective domestic processes. Japan’s entry into this important initiative for the Asia-Pacific region will help it to deliver significant economic benefits to the United States, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region."

Japan was the second largest export market for US beef in 2012 at $1 billion in sales. It also is the fourth largest trading partner for the US. The US exported $70 billion in goods to Japan in 2012 and $44 billion in services in 2011, according the USTR office.