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Japan forced to rethink TPP strategy

The Japanese government will likely be driven into a corner over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, in response to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement of his intention to exit the free trade agreement.


In the wake of Trump’s announcement, related Cabinet members within the Japanese government said they will continue efforts to realize the TPP.


However, the United States’ participation is an essential condition for the TPP to go into effect. The Japanese government will likely be forced to review its strategy.


At a press conference on Tuesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga emphasized this point, saying, “We’ll urge the United States and other signatory countries to complete their respective domestic procedures.”


Nobuteru Ishihara, the minister in charge of TPP affairs, said, “If Japan stops its efforts to heighten the momentum [for the enforcement of the TPP] under the leadership of our nation, it will undoubtedly drift away. We cannot stand still.”


For the TPP to go into force, at least six signatory countries accounting for at least 85 percent of all the participating countries’ total gross domestic product must approve the trade pact. It is therefore essential to have the participation of the United States, whose GDP accounts for about 60 percent.


Some of the participating countries have suggested that they would aim for a trade pact without the United States.


But the content agreed to for the TPP includes many items on which different countries compromised at the request of the United States. Therefore, if the United States exits from the TPP, drastic renegotiations would become necessary.


The TPP negotiations took about five years before the participating countries reached a basic agreement. Reviewing the contents would not be an easy task.


Regarding Trump’s indication that the United States will sign bilateral trade agreements instead of the TPP, a senior official of an economy-related ministry expressed anger, saying, “It’s a blatant demand for renegotiation, aiming to add more conditions to those agreed on for the TPP.”


Japan has pursued extremely difficult negotiations in the TPP talks over five key categories of products for the nation, including rice, beef and pork, so it would not be easy to accept compromises greater than those already reached in the TPP negotiations.


Trump has also stated that his administration will prioritize domestic industries, such as steel and automobiles. Some have expressed concern that the United States could more strictly impose antidumping taxes on imported products.


Kazunori Yamanoi, chairman of the Democratic Party’s Diet Affairs Committee, criticized the responses of the government and ruling parties at a press conference on Tuesday morning.


“The meaning of Diet deliberations on the TPP, which the administration of [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe is bulldozing through, will totally collapse. Also, the public will not at all understand passing the pact despite the fact that [the TPP] is now unlikely to go into force.”

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