Japan starts TPP ratification process

Bills to be debated in Japan before June 1 with hopes of building momentum in other countries to get TPP across finish line.

While the U.S. is likely months away from formal consideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Japanese government announced that it is initiating efforts for legislative ratification of the pact.

The announcement came through adoption of a Cabinet resolution that says the Japanese government will submit 11 bills to the Diet — Japan's Parliament — aimed at ratifying TPP and enacting the bills required for approval of TPP.

The government intends to deliberate and pass the bills during the current Diet's session, which ends on June 1, to avoid making TPP adoption a focal issue during Japan's general election, which is very likely to be called in July.

Japanese trade officials said they hope to build momentum toward ratification of the pact in other countries by ensuring that Japan takes the lead in proceeding with necessary domestic arrangements. Separately during the week, Japanese officials dismissed the suggestion that parts of the TPP agreement could be renegotiated, noting that it was hard won and agreed to by all 12 parties at the negotiating table.

The moves from Japan come as it is increasingly clear that TPP ratification in many countries will be on a long timeline.

In the U.S., top lawmakers are cautious about addressing the agreement before November's presidential election, given that many of the Democrat and Republican presidential candidates have expressed opposition to the accord.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who met with U.S. President Barack Obama on March 10 in Washington, D.C., has not committed to any timeline for Canadian ratification.

On the other side of the spectrum, Malaysia has signaled that all amendments in relation to TPP compliance may be completed by year-end. Other TPP member countries have indicated that they will take most of 2016 to seek approval of the agreement.

The TPP agreement will enter into force 60 days after all 12 member countries ratify it. If not all member nations have ratified it after two years, it will take effect 60 days after it is ratified by at least six countries that account for 85% of the combined gross domestic product of the 12 signatories. In practice, this means both the U.S. and Japan must ratify the agreement.

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