Business

Japan approves bills to ratify successor to TPP free trade pact

Kyodo

The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved on Tuesday bills to ratify the successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, bringing the long-promised multilateral trade pact closer to enforcement and in the process countering rising protectionist moves by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Japan and the 10 countries taking part in the deal, renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after the United States’ withdrawal, aim to put the pact into force possibly by the end of this year after signing it in Chile earlier this month.

The government will present the set of bills during the current Diet session, which runs through June 20, hoping to lead the way in completing necessary domestic procedures, and build momentum toward ratification of the pact by other countries.

The agreement will enter into force 60 days after at least six countries complete domestic procedures. The newly crafted agreement covers 13 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

“The TPP agreement is a landmark outcome from the standpoint of promoting free trade. The significance of Japan taking the lead in (implementing) new rules is extremely large,” Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP, told a news conference.

To bring the CPTPP into force in Japan, 10 laws need to be revised to include new rules and protections against the changes that will be brought by the free trade accord.

But the changes are minor — such as setting an implementation date or including the new name of the pact — as the laws for the original TPP were already enacted in December 2016 following the signing of the accord by 12 countries, at that time including the United States.

When the new bills are enacted, copyrights and trademarks, for example, will be preserved for 70 years after the creators die — longer than the current 50 years in Japan. The government will also seek to help domestic livestock farmers by compensating them for sales they may lose due to cheaper products being imported from foreign competitors.

The government also needs to obtain parliamentary approval for an agreement included in the CPTPP, which says the application of 22 provisions in the original pact that were included at the request of the United States, will now be suspended.

The government’s endorsement of the CPTPP pact came as Trump’s trade policy moves, such as the imposition of 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum shipments, raised fears of a global trade war. U.S. trading partners. including China, have suggested that they may take retaliatory measures.

The 11 CPTPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Since January 2017, when Trump pulled the United States out of the trade accord that had been promoted by his predecessor Barack Obama, Japan — the largest economy in the remaining 11 countries — has led the way in working toward a revised version of the deal and finalizing negotiations in January this year.