Originally posted on Nikkei Asian Review
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japan’s House of Representatives voted to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and passed a related bill Thursday, despite diminishing prospects for the ratification of the pact by the United States following Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election.
Following the vote during a plenary session of the Diet’s lower house, the decision will automatically stand after 30 days, even if the House of Councillors, or upper house, does not vote in favor.
The upper house steering committee is expected to schedule a plenary session for Friday, while the ruling parties are said to be considering an extension of the current extraordinary Diet session, set to end Nov. 30.
The coalition of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito party has rushed to get the pact approved during the current session, with Abe aiming for Japan to be the first of the 12 Pacific Rim signatories to ratify it.
The ruling parties were able to pass the TPP bills using their lower house majority, despite protests by opposition lawmakers who argued the vote was inappropriate given the U.S. political outlook and farm minister Yuji Yamamoto’s gaffes related to the matter.
LDP lawmakers had said Japan hoped to send a message to the United States by taking the initiative in ratifying the TPP, but the pact’s future in Washington looks dark following the victory of Republican businessman and TPP opponent Trump in Tuesday’s presidential election.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threw water on the possibility of the U.S. Congress ratifying the TPP during the “lame duck” period between now and the end of President Barack Obama’s term in January, despite Obama’s earlier pledges to get the pact ratified on his watch.
Both houses of Congress remained under Republican control following Tuesday’s elections in tandem with the presidential race.
Wrangling between Japan’s ruling and opposition parties saw several postponements to planned votes on the pact before Tsutomu Sato, chief of the lower house steering committee and an LDP lawmaker, used his discretionary authority to convene Thursday’s plenary session of the chamber.
The opposition has maintained its call for Yamamoto to resign since he said at a fundraising party in August that Sato could decide to railroad the TPP through parliament.
After the furor over that remark subsided, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to put the pact to a lower house vote on Nov. 4, but clashed again after Yamamoto described his earlier remark as a “joke that almost got me fired” at another party on Nov. 1.
The prime minister of New Zealand, one of the member countries involved in early negotiations that led to the TPP, expressed pessimism Thursday over the future of the pact even as the New Zealand parliament prepared to begin its final reading of a ratification bill later in the day.
“The probability of it passing in (Washington’s) lame duck period…if it’s not zero, it’s very close to zero,” John Key told a New Zealand radio show.
The TPP would cover around 40 percent of the global economy, and the United States and Japan would account for a combined 80 percent of the free trade bloc.