With U.S. support for Japan's entry into negotiations for a pan-Pacific free-trade pact announced last week, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld had a reason to celebrate.
Under a $600,000-per-year contract with Japan, Akin had lobbied U.S. government officials since November 2011 for the country's admission to the talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which is intended to eliminate import tariffs. The United States and eight other nations also are participating in the discussions.
"We're excited," said Akin partner Scott Parven, who leads about a dozen Akin lobbyists handling the account.
Former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt (R), president of the American Automotive Policy Council, on Friday said in a written statement that letting Japan join the talks now "risks unraveling the entire free trade agreement and will certainly delay its completion." The auto council said in a filing last year with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative that Japan should show "a multi-year commitment" to opening its market to automobile imports before the United States considers the addition of the country to the pact.
Before the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement can enter into force with the United States, it needs the support of Congress. Parven said "much more work" awaits Akin as it continues to lobby for Japan. But the announcement last week was an important step, Parven said. "Japan's inclusion in the [negotiations] is a game changer," he said.