The Straits Times | 6 July 2018
Japan becomes second country after Mexico to ratify TPP-11 trade deal
TOKYO - Japan became the second country to ratify the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal on Friday (July 6), the same day the United States unleashed its first round of tariffs on China in a move that is feared will lead to a drawn-out trade war.
The US tariffs of 25 per cent on products linked to China’s high-tech industries kicked in at 12.01pm Singapore time.
Beijing is retaliating with equivalent tariffs on an equivalent amount of US goods that target the US heartland, including pork and seafood.
Japan, too, opposes the stiff 25 per cent tariffs on automobiles, including cars, that the US has threatened on its long-term security ally with in the name of "national security interests".
This will be the focus when US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer meets Japan’s economic and fiscal policy minister Toshimitsu Motegi in Washington at the end of this month.
The 11-nation revised deal, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the TPP-11 following the US’ pullout in one of Mr Donald Trump’s first acts in office, will come into effect 60 days after it is ratified by six member countries.
Japan joins Mexico, which has already done so in April, in completing the necessary domestic procedures for the agreement.
On the TPP-11, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Friday it hopes that its ratification "will be a powerful message from Japan, as the standard-bearer for free trade, to the world amid the current global trend towards protectionism, and a significant step to create free and fair 21st century rules in the Asia Pacific region".
"Japan will continue to work with other signatories to achieve early entry into force of the TPP-11 agreement," it added.
Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said on Sunday (July 1) that he was confident that the Republic will be "among one of the first batches of countries to ratify the TPP-11, and I hope by the end of the year we can achieve the numbers required to bring the pact into force".
Australia, Canada and New Zealand have taken steps towards ratification, and Chile aims to do so soon. The other signatories to the deal are Brunei, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam.
Japan, which took the lead to drive the TPP-11 negotiations amid the rise in protectionism tendencies, will host working-level talks at the picturesque mountainside resort town of Hakone from July 17 to 19, during which negotiators will discuss how to let more countries into the deal. Thailand, Indonesia and Britain are among those keen.
The TPP-11 - which has been held up as the "gold standard of trade deals" - promotes trade liberalisation, and facilitates trade in goods and services, and investment, as well as establishes new rules in such areas as intellectual property, electronic commerce, and state-owned enterprises.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sees free trade agreements as the crucial next step to firing up the long-moribund economy under the three-pronged Abenomics strategy, which has seen slight successes from monetary easing and fiscal stimulus.
Japan and the European Union, which came to terms for an economic partnership agreement last year, are expected to sign the deal next week, when Mr Abe visits Brussels.
Separately, Japanese Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko also said on Sunday that Tokyo was committed to helping push the 16-nation, Asean-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) deal to an agreement by the end of this year.
Mr Seko and Mr Chan co-chaired a ministerial meeting for the RCEP in Tokyo on Sunday - the first outside Asean - and there are high hopes for a substantial deal by the Asean Summit in Singapore in November.
A successful conclusion of the RCEP, Mr Chan had said, will "send a strong and powerful signal to the world of our belief in free and open trade with benefits for all our respective people".