The Yomiuri Shimbun
An important step has been taken to put the brakes on protectionism, which has been growing in the United States. Japan must strengthen solidarity among the other countries concerned, to work toward putting into effect a fresh agreement as an engine to promote free trade in the world.
The eleven countries, without the United States, participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact have reached a broad agreement on a new deal. The member nations aim to seal the agreement early next year at the soonest so that the pact could take effect in 2019.
The TPP pact covers a wide range of fields, including intellectual property rights and the reduction and abolition of tariffs. It represents a set of high-level rules that can be regarded as a next-generation standard for world trade. It is extremely significant that moves have started anew to conclude this trade deal covering the Asia-Pacific region, which has been experiencing remarkable growth.
The TPP deal will serve as a set of influential guidelines for other trade frameworks, including the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that has been negotiated by 16 countries including Japan, China, South Korea and India.
The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump has been advocating a parochial “America-first” policy. In the renegotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Washington has been demanding trade rules that would be extraordinarily advantageous to the United States. It has also pressed South Korea to agree to renegotiate their bilateral free trade agreement.
Trump aims to reduce trade deficits with Japan and shows a keen interest in launching bilateral FTA talks.
For Japan, the TPP could work as a safety valve to let off any pressure applied by the United States. This is because it is possible to assert that Japan is not able to make more concessions in negotiations with the United States alone for a bilateral trade deal than in the TPP deal, which has been negotiated by taking into consideration the possibility of entering markets other than the United States.
Expand public understanding
Under the broad agreement on a new trade deal, some items the United States had staunchly asserted under the old agreement are to be frozen until the country returns to the TPP.
Now that the new TPP has been agreed on, it is reasonable for Tokyo to call on Washington to first return to the pact’s framework if it presses for bilateral trade negotiations.
As the 11 countries negotiated to work out the new deal, about 50 items were initially listed as candidates for freezing in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. Under the broad agreement now reached, that list has been narrowed down to 20 items. The negotiators tried hard to maintain the ambitious portions of the old TPP deal.
Japan, the biggest economic power among the 11 nations, has displayed strong leadership by taking such steps as frequently hosting working-level talks between senior officials. Undoubtedly, Japan’s efforts have promoted the formation of a consensus.
However, a meeting of the nations’ leaders was not held as scheduled when Canada showed reluctance at the final moment over holding such a meeting. Japan must continue to communicate meticulously with the other 10 countries and make every effort to ensure that unity will be maintained until the pact takes effect.
The 11 nations will now move toward launching their domestic procedures for the new deal. Japan obtained Diet approval of the old agreement last year. Diet deliberations will likely be necessary on the bills related to the new agreement.
It is imperative for the government to explain in detail about the significance of this trade deal that has been concluded without U.S. participation and make efforts to obtain wider understanding from the people.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 12, 2017)