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Spotlight: Japan ratifies TPP as light rapidly dims on U.S. fulfilling its pledge

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by November 10, 2016 General

TOKYO, Nov. 10 (Xinhua) — Japan‘s lower house of parliament on Thursday voted to ratify the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and passed a related bill, despite the ever-sinking chances the pact, spearheaded by the United States, will be ratified by the U.S. following Donald Trump winning the presidential election.

The vote was held in a special plenary session convened Thursday and the trade agreement and related legislation was supported by the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito junior ally, as well as the opposition Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party.

However, the main opposition Democratic Party, Liberal Party and Social Democratic Party boycotted the vote, while the Japanese Communist Party voted against the legislation.

The ruling camp however were able to pass the TPP bills, even in the face of such staunch opposition, owing to its majority in the parliament’s lower caucus.

But opposition was rife due to what opposition lawmakers described as “inappropriate timing” in light of the the victory of Trump, who is opposed to the TPP, in Tuesday’s presidential election.

Observers here noted Thursday that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had more than intimated that no moves to ratify the deal would be made during this phase, with others reiterating the fact that both houses of Congress in the U.S. remain under Republican control following the election.

While Japan is rushing to be the first signatory to the treaty, Thursday’s approval will now stand for 30 days, regardless of the upper house’s vote on the matter. However, an upper house steering committee is likely to arrange a special plenary session for Friday.

Meanwhile, sources close to the matter said Thursday that the ruling camp will almost certainly think about extending the current Diet session, which is set to end on Nov. 30.

The move would also be an unpopular one with the opposition camp, and reminiscent of the strong-arm tactics used by the ruling bloc to force illegal security bills through parliament and into law, without following due process including further parliamentary and public debate.

Other potential signatories are also conceding the fact that the pact may not come to fruition, with local media here quoting the Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key as saying that the pact’s chances of ratification during the “lame duck” period was “if not zero, very close to zero.”

While ostensibly it would seem that the 12 member nations of TPP have already reached a broad agreement, there remains, however, a number of hurdles ahead until the pact moves from paper to reality.

Each country is believed to be under similar pressure as Japan to allay fears of lobbies also fearing certain sectors will be adversely affected if tariffs are eliminated, or jobs lost to more cost-effective manufacturing hubs.

The biggest hurdle, however, is Trump’s opposition to the TPP and the likelihood that he may repeal the entire pact.

Leading economists here have suggested that the pact is in fact more about “managed trade” rather than “free trade,” and have questioned the lack of transparency of the overall process as the details of the agreement are supposed to be released prior to them being sent for ratification.

Experts have also claimed that not all the deals inked see tariffs eliminated following pledges made in earlier negotiations, with the details of the accord when they are presented to public and Congress, likely to be a diluted version of the original grand vision.

Skeptics to the pact in Japan also suggested that the presidential election in the U.S. has unnecessarily forced the premature inking of the pact, despite major differences still existing between member countries, meaning that the pact agreed upon has been glossed over with a number of key agreements yet to be fully made.

The TPP involves Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

If ratified, it would potentially account for 40 percent of global gross domestic product and more than 30 percent of global trade, with leading economists stating that combined growth would be worth in excess of 28 trillion U.S. dollars.

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