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2015年6月28日 (日)

米大統領交渉権 TPPの早期妥結につなげよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
U.S. legislation on fast-track authority must lead to early TPP trade accord
米大統領交渉権 TPPの早期妥結につなげよ

The conditions are finally in place to significantly push forward negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact.

Japan, the United States and 10 other participating countries should speed up negotiations to seal a multilateral trade deal as early as possible.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed a Trade Promotion Authority bill that will grant President Barack Obama fast-track authority on trade deals. The bill was earlier approved by the House of Representatives and will become law after Obama signs it.

There was concern that if a trade deal was reached without Obama being given TPA, any accord agreed to by the United States would be nullified due to U.S. congressional opposition. This prevented other participating nations from rallying the momentum to reach a broad TPP agreement.

With the TPA legislation, the participating countries will aim to hammer out a broad accord at a ministerial meeting in July. For now, we welcome the TPP negotiations’ entry into a new phase.

TPP is an ambitious vision for creating a high-level free trade zone in the Asia-Pacific region. If realized, it will contribute greatly to the development and stability of the region. But tough negotiations lie ahead for all the participating countries because they are confronted with domestic opponents calling for protection of their domestic industries.

The Obama administration’s stance is to promote the TPP deal. But the Democratic Party, which is supposed to support Obama, takes a strongly cautious view of the deal because the party is backed by labor unions. In contrast, most lawmakers from the Republican Party are in favor of pushing the TPP deal.

Overall perspective vital

Due to the differences in opinion between the president and the Democratic Party, the TPA bill was in limbo for more than two years.

The lack of leadership by Obama, who is passive about winning over the opposing legislators, is undeniably to blame for exacerbating the turmoil surrounding the matter.

Now that the battle in Congress has been settled, the focus has shifted to the fate of the TPP negotiations themselves. But it cannot be predicted how the talks will unfold.

Japan and the United States have made progress in their bilateral negotiations on such matters as tariff cuts on beef and pork imports. The issues left unresolved include expansion of U.S. rice imports by Japan, on which Tokyo is reluctant to concede, and the timetable and range of U.S. tariff cuts on automobile parts imported from Japan.

Tough battles have continued between the United States and emerging countries in negotiations related to intellectual property rights, including the protection period and range for newly developed medicines.

Top priority must be given to preventing the negotiations from drifting off course. As the countries to lead the TPP talks, Japan and the United States must cooperate to work out a final agreement as early as possible from a comprehensive standpoint.

The significance of TPP is not limited to economic benefits accruing from the expansion of trade and investment. The TPP framework is also expected to serve as a check on China, which has been increasing its presence in both the economic and security spheres.

China has been making steady progress in pushing for such plans as establishment of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank while expanding its aggressive maritime activities in the East and South China seas. If the TPP plan breaks apart in midair, it will help China become more aggressive and assertive. The participating countries should share this concern.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 26, 2015)


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