Japanese and U.S. business leaders Friday called on their governments to quickly ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact so that it enters into force soon.
Business councils in the two nations “expect Japan’s legislature will soon approve the trade agreement, and they urge the United States to exert strong leadership and take all necessary measures, as soon as possible,” the Japan-U.S. Business Conference said in a joint statement released in Tokyo following an annual two-day meeting.
Kunio Ishihara, chairman of the Japan-U.S. Business Council said as the conference’s co-chairman, “I hope Japan’s move (towards ratifying the TPP) will encourage the United States (to approve the deal). I want (the U.S. administration) to exert its last leadership and treat (the TPP) as its first priority.”
Following broad agreement reached in October last year, 12 Pacific Rim countries, representing about 40 percent of the world economy, signed the deal in February. But the trade pact must be ratified by lawmakers in each country before it enters into force.
While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to get the TPP approval swiftly, a vote in the lower house TPP committee was delayed as opposition parties boycotted a vote Wednesday and demanded the resignation of farm minister Yuji Yamamoto over a gaffe.
In the United State, President Barack Obama has vowed to get the TPP ratified before his term ends in January, but he faces a potentially uncooperative Congress.
As for his successor to be decided by next Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election, both Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have voiced opposition to the trade pact in its current form.
John Lechleiter, chief executive officer of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., who co-chaired the meeting, said that whoever wins the election, U.S.-Japan relationship remains “incredibly important,” and U.S. business will work “constructively” with the newly elected president.
In the statement, the business leaders said they appreciated the Bank of Japan’s efforts to stimulate the economy but expressed caution against “unintended consequences” of its negative interest policy adopted earlier this year.
The negative interest rate “policy may discourage spending among Japanese consumers, as particularly retirees confront the need to save more against a declining investment return on their savings,” it said.