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Agreement in Principle on TPP without US: What’s Next?

post date : 2017.12.04

These articles present editorials from leading Japanese newspapers (Asahi, Sankei, Nikkei, Mainichi, Yomiuri) covering the same theme.


The Asahi Shimbun:Japan must push multilateralism after TPP agreed on without U.S.
The Sankei Shimbun:Use TPP11 agreement in principle to block protectionism, continue encouraging US to join again
The Nikkei:Create high-quality free trade zone based on TPP11
The Mainichi Shimbun:New TPP pact should serve as basis for rebuilding free trade
The Yomiuri Shimbun:Conclusion of new TPP deal could forestall U.S. protectionist pressure


On November 11, the 11 nations remaining in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations after the US left reached an agreement in principle after a ministerial meeting held in Da Nang, Vietnam. The agreement is planned to be signed early in 2018, and to have it take effect in 2019. The agreement involved not changing the rules on reducing or eliminating tariffs, and suspending 20 provisions, mainly dealing with intellectual property, from the original pact before the US withdrew.


In their editorials on November 12, the five major Japanese dailies approved of Japan’s leadership in bringing about an agreement in principle on the TPP11, and welcomed the agreement being reached at the last minute. All the papers also called for continued efforts to convince the Trump administration, which is promoting protectionist “America First” policies, to return to the TPP in order to promote global free trade.


■ Approval of Japan’s Leadership


The Nikkei, while noting that with the US leaving the TPP the free trade zone and economic impact would be reduced, emphasized, “An agreement between 11 nations is very meaningful…. We would like to praise Japan for its efforts in leading the debate.” The paper listed the following benefits of the agreement in principle: 1) The new agreement not only includes eliminating tariffs, it also lays out rules for trade and investment with extremely high standards; 2) It will give a boost to other trade negotiations such as the East Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and lead to better results; and 3) It can be used as a breakwater against unreasonable demands from the US when it comes to a bilateral free trade agreement between Japan and the US. Stating that if the TPP takes effect, opening it up to countries such as the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand would be the next step, the paper argues, “Japan must always take a leading role in encouraging free trade in this region.”


The Yomiuri stated, “An important step has been taken to put the brakes on protectionism, which has been growing in the United States,” and argued, “It is extremely significant that moves have started anew to conclude this trade deal covering the Asia-Pacific region, which has been experiencing remarkable growth.” The paper also noted the TPP would “serve as a set of influential guidelines for other trade frameworks” such as the RCEP, as well as arguing that it could “work as a safety valve to let off any pressure applied by the United States” when it comes to negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement. The Yomiuri also mentions items the US had argued strongly for have been “frozen” under the new TPP, but could be reintroduced if the US decided to rejoin the agreement, arguing, “…it is reasonable for Tokyo to call on Washington to first return to the pact’s framework if it presses for bilateral trade negotiations.” The paper also declared, “Undoubtedly, Japan’s efforts have promoted the formation of a consensus.”


The Sankei (in an expanded editorial) stated that, considering China’s rise to economic prominence in the Asia Pacific region, “It is significant that a major agreement to reinforce economic links within the region is moving forward under Japanese leadership.” The paper called it an “important foundation” for countering the aggressive America First trade policy of the Trump administration, and “a breakwater to prevent protectionism.” In particular, regarding China’s One Belt, One Road initiative, the Sankei called it “a strategy to expand their sphere of influence, as both an economic and military hegemony,” and emphasized the strategic value of this agreement for keeping China in check. The paper also commented on how Japan approached countries such as Vietnam which were apprehensive about the new TPP and managed to reach an agreement in principle, stating, “Special mention should be given to how Japan carried out the responsibilities expected of a major economic power during these negotiations.”


■ Convince the US, Call for Persistent Multilateral Negotiations


The Asahi commented that with the agreement in principle, the TPP “will likely escape the worst-case scenario of being left in limbo,” and noted, “Even without the United States, the 11 countries still account for about 13 percent of the global gross domestic product. The latest agreement has no small significance...,” emphasizing the importance of calling for the US to return to the TPP. The paper also strongly argued that “It is up to the role of Japan to keep advocating” that multilateral frameworks, such as for spreading new rules about e-commerce, are in US interests. The Asahi also asked, if the negotiations for the RCEP could be sped up and a large free trade zone created in the Asia Pacific region, “In that case, would the US still choose to remain outside multilateral frameworks?”


Like the other papers, the Mainichi agreed, “The resultant new agreement is one aimed at boosting trade and investment and contributing to the development of the region -- even without U.S. participation,” and argued, “The TPP deal will also serve as a deterrent against the ‘America First’ trade policies advocated by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.” Regarding the summit meeting not happening due to Canada’s objections, the paper stated, “It is hoped that the leaders will maintain unity and sign the pact at an early date to make it a cornerstone of efforts to re-establish the free trade system.” Regarding the possibility of the US returning to the TPP, the Mainichi suggested, “If TPP members boost their agricultural exports to Japan, it would adversely affect U.S. exports to the country. Therefore, the new pact is expected to give rise to calls within the U.S. agricultural sector to return to the TPP,” and called for persistence in efforts to convince the US.



Photo: Reuters/AFLO


*English translations of The Yomiuri, The Asahi and The Mainichi are from The Japan News, The Asia & Japan Watch and The Mainichi, respectively. Those for The Nikkei and The Sankei are provisional. The content of this page was made by the Foreign Press Center Japan and does not reflect the opinion of the Japanese Government or any other organization.

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