May 14, 2017 2:00 am JST

Japan to push for 'TPP 11' by year-end

Ministerial meeting to be held later this month in Vietnam

Ministers from TPP signatories pose for pictures in Chile, where they held their first meeting after the U.S. pulled out of the trade pact, in March.

TOKYO -- Japan on May 21 will call on the 10 other remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to come to a general agreement by the end of the year on implementing an accord without the U.S. It will make the push during a meeting in Vietnam.

The U.S. withdrew from the trade deal soon after Donald Trump became president in January.

Japan aims to keep the TPP from drifting away and to maintain unity among the remaining countries.

The move also appears to be designed to improve the chances of the TPP actually taking effect and thereby soften the Trump administration's push for a bilateral trade agreement with Japan in lieu of the TPP.

Japan will send Nobuteru Ishihara, minister of economic and fiscal policy, to the ministerial meeting in Vietnam. Japan wants negotiators from the 10 other remaining members to also meet in November on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which will also be held in Vietnam, and to all but wrap up the accord then.

Japan is making unofficial arrangements with the other countries to include the envisaged time frame in a joint statement to be issued next week.

The 10 other members have so far agreed to a joint statement that would say they will work to implement the TPP as soon as possible. But Japan wants to add language to specify that the members will end working-level talks by the APEC summit so that they can reach a general agreement by year-end.

The TPP was signed by 12 governments in February 2016. For it to take effect, it needs domestic approval in six or more countries that together account for 85% of aggregate gross domestic product among the 12 nations.

With the U.S. -- the largest economy -- now out of the picture, the remaining members need to renegotiate the conditions so as to allow the TPP to take effect without the U.S. Japan hopes to keep intact the terms of the accord, such as various tariffs and other trade rules, and make as few changes as possible.

Not all of the 10 other members share Japan's enthusiasm. Malaysia and Vietnam, for instance, only agreed to deregulate their economies in the original TPP in exchange for access to the U.S. market. They are said to be wary of a TPP minus the U.S.

Whether Japan succeeds in including a specific deadline for a TPP 11 depends on how much cooperation it can win from the two countries.

The Japanese government believes that a general agreement on the TPP without the U.S. will eventually serve as a framework to welcome back the U.S. should it decide to return to the fold.

(Nikkei)

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