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POLITICS

TPP members working for early agreement to avoid impact of U.S. presidential election

  • 2015-07-29 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: July 29, 2015 – p. 9)

 

 By Kunihiko Yasue, Kyoko Yamaguchi in Hawaii

 

 The 12 TPP member states will work for reaching a basic agreement at their ministerial meeting starting on July 28 (July 29, Japan time). They are rushing to reach an agreement because the U.S. political situation will become unpredictable if this is delayed, making an agreement difficult to achieve.

 

 Primaries for the U.S. presidential election will start in January 2016. One-third of senators will also be up for election along with the presidential race.

 

 Labor unions supporting the ruling Democratic Party are opposed to the TPP out of fear that the expansion of free trade will result in a deluge of cheap imports, industrial hollowing out, and loss of jobs.

 

 Since their attempts to stop the bill granting trade promotion authority (TPA) to President Barack Obama failed, labor groups are now focusing on “crushing the TPP.” They are planning not to support candidates backing the TPP in the presidential election and will be monitoring the statements and actions of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other prospective Democratic candidates.

 

 Therefore, it will be harder for Democratic lawmakers to support the TPP as the election draws near next year, which will make it more difficult for Congress to ratify the TPP agreement.

 

 If the TPP ministerial meeting succeeds in reaching a basic agreement, Obama will notify Congress in August that he has signed the TPP agreement, aiming at completing the ratification procedures before the end of 2015. Japan also hopes to ratify the agreement at the extraordinary Diet session in fall.

 

 On the other hand, if the ministerial meeting fails to reach an agreement, the momentum for concluding the negotiations will be lost instantly. This will cause a setback in the talks, and concluding an agreement, which is now within reach, will become a distant goal again.

 

 There is talk among sources involved with the TPP talks that in case of failure to reach a deal, negotiations will continue at the negotiator level, with the aim of holding another ministerial meeting to craft a basic agreement in August. However, there is no guarantee that this will happen, given a few extra weeks. Furthermore, even with a deal in August, if ratification is not completed by Congress before yearend, it may become difficult after the primaries start.

 

 It is believed that the TPP nations will give priority to bilateral tariff talks, which form the basis of the agreement, at the ministerial meeting. There will only be a few plenary sessions in the first two days of the four-day meeting. Mostly bilateral talks, between Japan and the U.S. or between the U.S. and Australia, for instance, will take place.

 

 The meeting is reckoned to reach a critical stage on the third day, July 30. A source on the talks suggested that “negotiations may last all night.” A joint news conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on the fourth and last day, July 31 (8:30 a.m. on Aug. 1, Japan time) but a substantial delay is possible if negotiations drag on. (Slightly abridged)

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