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Japan passes bills to ratify trans-Pacific trade deal

Tokyo to push other members to bring pact into force by year's end

Shipping containers are seen at a port in Tokyo. Japan's parliament passed bills on Friday approving a  trans-Pacific trade deal. (Photo by Akira Kodaka)

TOKYO -- Japan's parliament passed bills ratifying a comprehensive trans-Pacific trade deal on Friday, paving the way for the pact to take effect, which its backers say will create a "trade deal for the 21st century."

With ratification complete, the Japanese government will press other member countries of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as the pact is now known, to do the same, hoping to bring the deal into force by the end of the year.

The 11 countries that signed the agreement are: Japan, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Australia and New Zealand.

The CPTPP will take effect within 60 days, following ratification by six of the 11 signatories.

Japan intends to inform New Zealand that it has completed the approval process by the beginning of July. New Zealand serves as secretariat for the agreement. Japan will be the second country to have ratified the agreement, after Mexico, which completed the process in April.

South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and Indonesia are among several parties keen to join the CPTPP, while Colombia is the first to have formally expressed interest in taking part to the New Zealand government.

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's newly elected prime minister, on the other hand, is having second thoughts. He has said Malaysia may reconsider its decision to join the pact.

Through CPTPP, member countries aim to lower duties on agricultural and industrial products. The agreement also seeks to standardize a wide range of business rules. Its promoters say the deal will help shape future global trade negotiations.

In February 2016, Japan, the U.S. and 10 other countries signed the original Trans-Pacific Partnership. Japan spent 130 hours of parliamentary deliberations to finish the domestic approval process. However, the TPP never came into force as President Donald Trump decided to withdraw the U.S. from the framework.

Japan orchestrated the renegotiation process among the remaining 11, leaving out 22 items that Washington had led the way on. These issues are on hold should the U.S. return to the process.

The CPTPP-related bills call for compensation to Japan's livestock ranchers, extending the copyright protection period, and for intensifying a crackdown on pirated films and manga.

Japan and the U.S. are looking into a new trade dialogue called the FFR -- free, fair, and reciprocal. On Thursday, an upper house committee passed a resolution, insisting that the government firmly resist U.S. demands for treatment more favorable than what is called for in the CPTPP. The Japanese government will use CPTPP agreements as a line never to be crossed when talking trade with the U.S.

Masayuki Yuda contributed to this report.

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