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2015年11月21日 (土)

APEC 自由貿易拡大はTPPを軸に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Expansion of free trade framework must center around TPP pact
APEC 自由貿易拡大はTPPを軸に

Broadening high-level trade liberalization based on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is indispensable to the further development of the world economy.

A declaration was adopted Thursday at a summit meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, of which a major pillar is to speed up discussions about creating a “Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific” (FTAAP).

The declaration stressed that the realization of the envisioned FTAAP “should be pursued as a comprehensive free trade agreement.”

The FTAAP would endeavor to economically integrate 21 countries and regions, including Japan, the United States, China and Russia. We welcome the fact that the APEC members — despite their widely different levels of economic development, ranging from industrially advanced to developing — have reconfirmed the importance of unifying trade rules.

If the broad agreements reached in the TPP negotiations, such as the abolition of tariffs and the application of fair and transparent trade rules, spread to nations outside the TPP, it will certainly invigorate the economic activities in the region.

It is a cause for concern that China and Russia, which are not involved in the TPP, have reacted adversely to the envisaged economic integration centering on the TPP.

Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed caution in a lecture during the summit, saying: “With various new regional free trade arrangements cropping up, there have been worries about the potential of fragmentation.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote in an article ahead of the APEC summit that “the confidential fashion in which the TPP negotiations were conducted is probably not the best way to facilitate sustainable growth in the Asia-Pacific region.”

U.S. Congress is key

One country after another has shown interest in taking part in the TPP, including South Korea and the Philippines. China and Russia, whose intentions to vie with the economic order led by the United States are now in jeopardy, have apparently taken steps to check the moves of other nations to become additional TPP members.

China is poised to seek the region’s economic integration based on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which it has been negotiating with countries including Japan, South Korea and India. The United States is not a party to RCEP negotiations.

However, the tariff abolition targets being sought in the RCEP initiative are lower than those under the TPP. It has been pointed out that the RCEP talks have yet to make progress regarding such matters as environmental protection and human and intellectual property rights, while TPP member countries and businesses are required to comply with standards regarding those matters.

To ensure fair and free economic activity, it is more desirable to have the TPP rules accepted as international standards.

It was right that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the APEC summit: “Japan hereafter will energetically pour our efforts into expanding the TPP.” By cooperating with such countries as Australia, Japan must play a leading role in the RCEP negotiation process — in which the United States is absent — with the aim of bringing its levels of trade liberalization closer to those of the TPP.

It is worrying that rough sailing is expected regarding the ratification of the TPP by the U.S. Congress. In addition to objections from the Republican Party, trade unions, which are the support base for the Democratic Party, have also been intensifying their resistance toward the TPP.

The TPP cannot be put into force without ratification by the United States. We hope the U.S. administration will strenuously tackle the challenge in Congress.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 20, 2015)


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