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Japan, U.S. step up efforts for early TPP agreement

  • 2015-06-26 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
  • Translation

(Asahi: June 26, 2015 – Top play)

 

 By Daisuke Igarashi in Washington; Hitoshi Kujiraoka; Go Kobayashi

 

 The U.S. trade promotion authority (TPA) bill, which holds the key to an agreement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks, is expected to be enacted this week, so the TPP talks will now enter the final phase. The Japanese and U.S. governments are working together for reaching an agreement at the 12-nation ministerial meeting to be held in July. However, issues remain and some twists and turns can still be expected.

 

 President Barack Obama left no stone unturned in his efforts to persuade Congress to pass the TPA bill because the TPP is the centerpiece of his strategy of “rebalancing to Asia,” both economically and militarily. He wants to increase employment by expanding exports to Asia and make high-level rules in IT, pharmaceuticals, and other sectors. With China projecting a stronger presence by founding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Obama stated in an article contributed to a local paper that, “This is an opportunity for us, and not countries like China, to make the rules for the 21st Century.”

 

 With the presidential election coming up next year, the U.S. government would like to have Congress ratify the TPP agreement before political tension heightens between the ruling and opposition parties.

 

 Japan is also keen on an early TPP agreement.

 

 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed at the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on June 25: “The passage of the TPA bill is a major step forward. I welcome this. We would like to see Japan and the U.S. exercise leadership in working for an early TPP agreement.”

 

 The TPP is at the center of the government’s growth strategy and an agreement will directly impact the fate of Abenomics. An aide to Abe observes that “if the TPP suffers a setback, we will have to rethink trade strategy from scratch.”

 

 TPP Minister Akira Amari said that the time limit for reaching an agreement is “end of July.” This is because bills on the ratification of the TPP agreement and measures to help agricultural sectors impacted by TPP will have to be submitted not later than the end of July in order for them to be passed at the extraordinary Diet session this fall. If this is delayed to the regular Diet session next year, it will come right before the House of Councillors election in summer. There is concern that “criticism against tariff reduction for agricultural products may make it impossible to fight in the election,” according to a Diet member specializing in agricultural issues.

 

 The TPP will have a major impact on the people’s livelihood, so the participating nations will not be able to compromise easily. In the 12-nation negotiations, only 11 out of the 29 sections have been settled. According to a Japanese source on the talks, rough sailing is expected. “The other countries are expecting the U.S. to soften its stance after TPA is obtained. If it does not change its attitude of making demands on other countries, the atmosphere will become chilly at the ministerial meeting.” (Abridged)

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