A coalition of more than 60 food and agricultural organizations, including the National Chicken Council, on Monday urged the Obama administration to work with Japan to smooth the way for that country’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral trade agreement.

“The addition of Japan to these negotiations would enhance the significance of the TPP and make the agreement much more encompassing,” the coalition wrote in a letter sent to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.  “The inclusion of Japan would generate enormous interest and support among the undersigned organizations.”

Trade negotiators last month found common ground on TPP leading Japan to express interest in joining the talks, which currently include Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.

Japan’s economy is second only to China’s in the region, the letter highlights, and it is the United States’ fourth largest agricultural export market overall, despite maintaining substantial import barriers in the food and agricultural sector. Even with these barriers, U.S. exports to Japan in 2010 totaled nearly $12 billion.

Should Japan’s TPP bid be rejected, the coalition warned that Japan likely would enter free trade talks with the European Union in 2012 and with other countries.

“The opportunity to include Japan in the TPP negotiations must be seized,” the coalition concluded.  “It is an opportunity that may not present itself again.”

To read a copy of the letter, click here.