WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama on Monday voiced support for Japan joining talks with the United States and eight other countries on a free trade agreement in the fast-growing Asia Pacific region, but said no final decision had been made.

"We instructed our teams to continue our consultation regarding Japan's interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would benefit both our economies and the region," Obama said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

The United States hopes to finish talks with Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei on the TPP pact by the end of the year.

The countries say they are aiming for a "21st Century" agreement that goes further than previous trade pacts in tearing down barriers to trade and raising international standards in areas like labor and environment.

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