World Economy

Revised TPP Faces Obstacles on Road to Ratification

Revised TPP Faces Obstacles on Road to RatificationRevised TPP Faces Obstacles on Road to Ratification

The remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact will soon sign a revised agreement, but the big question remains whether local politics—like those in the US—will once again emerge as a stumbling block.

Japan, which has led the efforts to revive the TPP after the US withdrew last year, expects the deal to take effect in 2019. Once the 11 remaining members sign the accord in Chile on March 8, the deal will move on to the ratification phase in signatory countries, Nikkei reported.

“I wish to rigorously cooperate toward a swift implementation of the TPP-11,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet Friday during her visit to Tokyo. Free trade is an extremely important issue, Bachelet replied.

But to bring the massive free trade zone to fruition, the TPP-11 must first clear several hurdles.

The Abe government will submit a proposal ratifying the pact next month, along with a package of relevant bills. When the parliament debated the original 12-member TPP, signed in 2016, all opposition parties except for Nippon Ishin no Kai came out against the deal. The same pushback is expected this time since the new agreement is not dramatically different from the first.

“In any case, I’m afraid of mistakes,” said a senior economic official. During the TPP’s first iteration, Agriculture Minister Yuji Yamamoto drew fire for suggesting the ruling coalition could ram through a ratification. Koya Nishikawa, a former agriculture minister, sparked a walkout by the opposition Democratic Party when a manuscript of his memoir allegedly revealed previously undisclosed concessions from the US.

The upper and lower houses ended up debating the original TPP for more than 130 hours altogether. If the TPP-11 were to get similarly bogged down in debate, passage of the trade agreement by the June close of the legislative session could be put in doubt.

As the leader on the TPP, the onus is on Japan to quickly approve the deal. “Many nations are disinclined to be the first to ratify), and they are monitoring Japan,” said a source close to the negotiations. If Japanese lawmakers drag their feet, they could delay the ratification process in other signatory nations as well.

Mexico will vote for its next president in July, which may lead to a change in government. Canada, a one-time holdout, now says it will sign the agreement. But it is still unclear when the Canadian parliament will schedule a ratification vote.

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