TPP passes crucial test, Japan enthusiastic

PM Shinzo Abe hopes for ‘early conclusion’ of talks on 12-nation trade deal after US Congress gives Obama ‘fast track’ authority

TPP passes crucial test, Japan enthusiastic

World Bulletin / News Desk

Now that the U.S. Congress has voted to give President Barack Obama “fast track” authority, it seems likely that negotiations to wrap up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) should move quickly, in a matter of weeks rather than months.

Japan’s Economics Minister, Akio Amari, predicted that broad agreement could be reached by the end of July. Dragging things out further would cause the complicated deal to become embroiled in partisan politics, especially the looming president election next year in the U.S.

Most of the participating nations were forced into a wait-and-see posture while the Americans wrestled through most of June with the politics of the deal. At one time, it seemed all was lost as the House of Representatives voted by a huge margin to deny Obama Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

More generally known as fast-track authority, TPA allows the president to negotiate a trade agreement and then submit it to Congress for a straight up and down vote with no amendments allowed. It is generally considered essential to any agreement.

June provided many nail-biting moments for TPP proponents until the lower house reversed itself and the Senate voted 60-38 to approve it. Once the deal is signed, the president has 90 days to submit the agreement to Congress where a simple majority is all that’s needed for passage.

While the TPP covers 12 nations on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, negotiations between Japan and the U.S. were considered the key. The main barriers to a deal were the traditional trade roadblocks: agriculture for Japan and automobile parts for the U.S.

However, months of negotiations apparently have brought the two sides very close to an agreement, according to sources close to the economics ministry. Amari told Kyodo news that “no serious trade issues remain between Japan and the U.S.”

“We believe that the gaps are narrow enough so that the two leaders could make the final compromises to seal the deal,” said Richard Katz, editor of The Oriental Economist.

It is understood that Washington has made some concessions on the amount of rice that can be sold to Japan annually and has agreed to eliminate the already nominal tariffs on auto-parts. Considering the fulsome praise from the U.S. Pork Producers Council for the deal, Japan must have lowered some barriers on their product too.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed the Congressional action as “a major step forward” and said he hoped for an “early conclusion” of the negotiations.

Ministers from the 12 proposed partners were to have met to wrap things up in a late May meeting on Guam. That meeting was postponed indefinitely and everybody marked time until the Congress could sort things out.

 “I think a ministerial meeting will be held in July,” Amari told Kyodo. “We need to reach a broad agreement in July, and I think that is possible.”

The U.S., Australia, Brunei, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam launched the TPP in 2010. Malaysia, Canada and Mexico joined the partnership later. China was never invited.

Even without China, the TPP covers about 40 percent of the world’s economy.

Last Mod: 27 Haziran 2015, 11:24
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