Lower House passes bill to ratify Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal

Kyodo

The Lower House on Friday passed a bill to ratify the remodeled Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, paving the way for its enactment before the current Diet session ends in June.

Japan and the other 10 countries party to the agreement hope to see the pact — which was renegotiated and renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership after the U.S. withdrew last year — take effect by the end of the year. The agreement will enter into force 60 days after at least six countries conclude domestic ratification procedures. Mexico has already completed them.

In Japan a ratification bill is automatically enacted 30 days after it has been sent to the Upper House. Friday’s approval by the House of Representatives sets the stage for its enactment by the end of the current regular Diet session on June 20. But before Japan implements the pact, the Diet also needs to pass legislation to protect domestic farmers and intellectual property rights.

The renegotiated agreement, which covers over 13 percent of global economic activity, was signed by the 11 countries in March.

When the pact, dubbed the TPP-11, takes effect, consumers will be able to gain access to cheaper agriculture produce and other products. The new deal freezes the application of 22 provisions — such as those on intellectual property — that were in the original agreement. Japan hopes to ensure the pact comes into force at an early date, as the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is promoting free trade at a time of growing concern over rising protectionism under U.S. President Donald Trump.

Tokyo is also seeking to encourage the United States to return to the TPP. Trump has expressed an interest in rejoining the agreement if the United States can get a “substantially better” deal. The addition of the world’s largest economy would extend coverage of the pact to represent 40 percent of the global economy.

Japan’s state minister in charge of the agreement, Toshimitsu Motegi, has said the country will host a meeting of chief negotiators from the 11 countries in June or July to confirm each country’s progress on domestic procedures.

The members of the TPP 11 are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Thailand has also expressed its hope to join.