TOKYO -- The government and ruling parties will give up on ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact in the current parliamentary session, as last week's powerful earthquakes in Kyushu will likely demand immediate legislative action.
The ruling coalition instead will aim to have the Diet ratify the trade pact and approve related legislation in an extraordinary session to be convened after the July upper house election.
Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, on Tuesday met with the party's top Diet affairs officials and agreed that passing the TPP and related legislation through the lower house by April 26 is a long shot. Secretaries-general from the ruling and opposition parties will meet as soon as that day to discuss the schedule for the remaining session, which ends June 1.
Friction between the LDP and opposition members of the lower-house special committee on the TPP bills had brought deliberations to a halt. Following major earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture last week, lawmakers returned to the negotiating table Monday. But members of the Democratic Party and other opposition groups are now calling for reconstruction measures and aid for those affected by the quakes to be given priority.
The LDP estimates that 40 hours of deliberation time will be needed for the bills to clear the lower house, but securing that much time by the end of the month will be a challenge. A hearing required before the vote has not yet been scheduled.
The LDP is reluctant to extend the current Diet session ahead of an upper house election in July. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be occupied on May 26 and 27 chairing the Group of Seven summit in Ise-Shima, making May 25 the effective deadline for TPP deliberations.
LDP leaders are cautious not to push the legislation too aggressively ahead of Sunday, when voters will go to the polls in a lower house by-election in a Hokkaido district. "We're not looking to ram the bills through," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Tuesday. "We need to secure a certain level of understanding" from voters, he said.