Prime Minister Bill English is heading to Japan and Hong Kong next week, with resuscitating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal towards the top of his to-do list.

Following the withdrawal of the US from the multilateral FTA, both New Zealand and Japan have been striving to keep it alive.

While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last November the TPP would be “meaningless” without the US, the country has in recent months taken on more of a leadership role in pursuing a “TPP minus one” deal.

Closer to home, Trade Minister Todd McClay has announced that Cabinet has agreed to ratify the TPP – a largely symbolic step at present, given the participation of the US was needed for the deal to take effect.

McClay said the decision “sends a clear message that we see value in a common set of high-quality rules across the Asia-Pacific and we are keeping all of our options open”.

“There is a building consensus that a common set of high quality rules across the Asia-Pacific will greatly benefit regional economic integration and support openness.”

Trade ministers from Japan, New Zealand and the nine other countries involved in the deal will meet in Vietnam later this month to discuss the way forward.

In a statement, English said he would meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss a number of issues, including trade and security as well as joint initiatives relating to food, education, sport and defence.

“Strengthening our trade and economic links with Japan will be a focus, including through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Japan is New Zealand’s fifth-largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth roughly $7 billion.

During his Hong Kong visit, English will meet the territory’s outgoing chief executive CY Leung and his successor Carrie Lam, who will take over on July 1.

English said the Hong Kong leg of his trip will focus on strengthening New Zealand’s economic relationship and building on connections with those investing here.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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