In moving toward the realization of comprehensive trade and investment rules that are unprecedented anywhere else, the preparedness of participating countries is tested once again.
A meeting of the leaders of the 12 member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement was held in Peru.
For the TPP to come into effect, the countries ratifying the pact must represent 85 percent of the combined GDP of the TPP members. The pact will not go into effect without the ratification of the United States, which alone accounts for more than 60 percent of the GDP.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed during the presidential election campaign to pull the United States out of the deal, saying it would lead to a loss of domestic jobs. There are doubts whether the pact will go into effect.
At the meeting, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called on the signatory countries not to retreat and take the offensive. “If we flinch because of the current situation and stop our domestic procedures, the TPP will be completely dead. It will be impossible for us to curb protectionism,” he said.
It is reasonable for the participating countries to acknowledge once again the economic and strategic significance of the pact and reaffirm that domestic procedures should continue to be taken toward its effectuation.
The TPP involves a wide-ranging field from trade to investment, and includes the elimination or reduction of trade tariffs, the protection of intellectual property and proper working conditions. It is ambitious and is expected to serve as the standard for next generation economic agreements.
The TPP, which was formally agreed on in February this year, was concluded after about five years of arduous negotiations. The pact, which was finally worked out following repeated conflicts and compromises among the countries involved, has also been described as a “fragile piece of glassware.”
The result of the negotiations carried out by the participating countries should not be sent back to square one.
Continue approaching U.S.
New Zealand has completed its domestic procedures. It is important for Japan, where the pact is under deliberation by the House of Councillors, to approve it as soon as possible, thereby supporting the unity of the member countries.
Some countries are suggesting the possibility of putting the pact into effect without U.S. ratification. It is one thing to consider every possible option, so that the hard-won accord will not be sent back to the drawing board.
It is another thing the participating countries keep in step with one another and continue making approaches to the United States, until Trump formally makes his position clear upon taking office.
The Republican Party, which can rule at will with the next U.S. administration, has taken the stance of promoting free trade. Trump also has indicated his intention of examining carefully the order of priority of his campaign promises.
At a summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, held on the heels of the TPP meeting, the battle against protectionism was a major item on the agenda.
The Asia-Pacific free trade area concept, which APEC advocates, has, as its nucleus, the TPP and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with 16 economies including Japan, China and South Korea, taking part in the RCEP.
Should the TPP be brought to a standstill, the RCEP will have a bigger presence. Reflecting on China’s domestic situation, however, it would become difficult to work out any high-level rules on such matters as reforms of state-owned enterprises and the protection of intellectual property. The TPP is vital to avoid such a situation.