Noda Risks Ruling Party Split With U.S. Free Trade Talks

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda risks sparking the deepest split in his party since taking office two months ago as he determines whether to join trade talks with the U.S., his country’s No. 2 export destination.

Noda, who last week responded to exporters’ concern over the yen’s strength with what might have been the biggest currency intervention on record, set a deadline of this week for proceeding with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP would slash tariffs like Japan’s 778 percent duty on rice and open competition in industries including pharmaceuticals, stirring the opposition of about half of ruling-party lawmakers.

With South Korea having reached a deal with the U.S., failure to proceed ahead of a Nov. 12-13 Asia-Pacific summit risks further diminishing the stature of a nation surpassed by China as the world’s second-largest economy. Noda, Japan’s sixth prime minister in five years, will have to draw on his political skills to head off an intraparty rebellion.

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