US Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed Japan’s interest in joining a free trade agreement in the Pacific as he wrapped up his tour in the region.

After meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, Kerry said admitting Japan to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be a key step in the deal, reports AFP.

Japan’s entry would “be a critical mass for economic standards, and we believe it would help raise standards across the globe,” according to Kerry.

“Clearly having Japan in the TPP would be an enormous economic benefit for all of us,” Kerry told a press conference in Tokyo, adding that China’s own free-trade agreement with Japan and South Korea could be “complementary” to the TPP.

On Friday, the US gave Japan the green light to enter talks on the 11-nation Pacific trade agreement, despite opposition from US manufacturers and labour groups. US lawmakers have cautioned Washington that admitting Japan could hurt its auto industry.

Kerry also stressed that economics play a great role in the US’ “rebalance” towards Asia.