Japan ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact on Friday as the ruling camp approved the trade deal and its related legislation in the Upper House, overcoming resistance from the opposition camp.
However, the chance of the free trade deal taking effect is considered very slim because U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw from the agreement as soon as he is sworn in on Jan. 20.
Even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has admitted that a TPP without the U.S. would be “meaningless.”
The United States economy accounts for as much as 60 percent of the combined gross domestic product of the TPP’s 12 members, including Japan, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Still, Abe’s ruling coalition rushed to ratify the pact, arguing that Japan should take the initiative to stamp out protectionism and act as a standard bearer for new free trade laws around the world.
“It’s very important for us, as a country, to show ideal rules that we believe the world should aim for,” Abe told an Upper House session earlier in the day.
Abe also said that the TPP would set new standards for environmental issues and competitive rules for state-owned enterprises.
For Japan to uphold such a trade pact would have a positive impact on negotiations related to other global free trade agreements, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Abe said.
“It will also positively impact the U.S., which is now in a transition period” ahead of Trump’s inauguration, Abe added.
The TPP does not include China, which is among the countries in the RCEP talks.
Experts have said the TPP would carry strategic importance for Japan in setting new trade rules favorable to it and other countries calling for a global standard for conducting freer trade.
But the TPP will not take effect unless it earns the support of at least six countries that account for 85 percent or more of the combined GDP of the 12 member states. This means the TPP would be nullified if the U.S. withdraws.
Trump has repeatedly bashed the TPP as an unfair agreement that would threaten American jobs, a message that resonates with economically frustrated voters.
At a full session of the Upper House, the Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party voted against the TPP. Most of the support came from the ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito, and from Nippon Ishin no Kai, a small opposition party that often sides with the ruling camp.
According to the government, the TPP would boost GDP by ¥13.6 trillion and create 795,000 new domestic jobs.
Meanwhile, domestic agricultural production would be reduced by up to ¥210 billion a year, according to the government. Agricultural lobbies, once one of the LDP’s most powerful supporters, have strongly opposed the deal.
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