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Japan ratifies TPP despite bleak outlook under Trump

Kyodo

Japan ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement on Friday, hours before the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president. Trump has pledged to withdraw from the 12-party pact.

After the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved the TPP Friday morning, the government notified New Zealand, the country to which the pact is entrusted, that Japan had completed its domestic procedures.

The TPP appears unlikely to take force as Trump has pledged to pull the U.S. out of the deal as soon as he takes office.

Abe has said it would be “meaningless” to pursue bringing the TPP — signed by Japan, the United States and 10 other Pacific Rim nations last February — into force without U.S. participation.

Since his election in November last year, Trump has reiterated his campaign promise to immediately dump the TPP and focus on pursuing bilateral trade deals instead.

If he shifts his focus to bilateral trade deals with Japan, thorny issues involving such items as beef and agricultural products will inevitably flare up, according to some observers.

Despite Trump’s stance, Abe stressed the importance of continuing to lobby the United States over the TPP during his tour last week of Asia-Pacific countries, including TPP signatories Australia and Vietnam.

Nobuteru Ishihara, minister in charge of the pact, told a TPP-related meeting ahead of the Cabinet decision that a tide of protectionism can be seen rising around the world.

“(Japan) will resolutely work toward the construction of a common foundation (to underpin) the importance of free trade,” Ishihara said.

Trade minister Hiroshige Seko echoed that view at his news conference following the Cabinet meeting. He said Japan will keep pushing the U.S. toward joining the TPP.

“We will continue to appeal the strategic and economic significance (of the agreement) to the new Trump administration and tenaciously keep urging the country to complete its domestic process,” Seko said.

Touching on Japan-U.S. relations, the minister said, “Our bilateral trade ties are deeply interwoven. We’d like to make our ties even stronger with the incoming administration.”

The Diet passed the TPP and related legislation last month. The subsequent revision of regulations and Friday’s Cabinet decision mean the domestic ratification procedures are complete.