TPP - No News In Japan?

The huge issue for the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations was - would the US get fast track authorization, and since that did not happen, what's next? Not a singe comment on Jiji or NHK on Wednesday, that's pretty telling.

The Japanese government must be absolutely lost, what to do next. Embarrassing, indeed. No official comment from the US's most enthusiastic and fawning partner, this side of the pacific?

Even Malaysia has managed to produce a comment:

TPPA negotiations to proceed sans US senate support to finalise agreement
13 May 2015, New Straits Times,

JOHOR BARU: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations involving 12 countries will still proceed even though the United States (US) has not received the support of its Senate to continue talks to finalise the agreement.

International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister, Datuk Hamim Samuri, said each participating country in the negotiations must have their own individual issues that they wanted to safeguard.

“For certain, all countries (that are involved) have their own individual issues...that is normal. We are still at the negotiation stage,” he told reporters after launching the ‘Exporters Forum 2015’ at the Persada Johor International Convention Centre here, today.

Hamim said this when commenting on the latest report that stated the US had failed to secure the support of the Senate to continue with the negotiations in order to finalise the TPPA.

It was reported that the future of the TPPA may be affected with President Barack Obama failing to secure Senate support to advance Fast Track Authority to a full debate and vote in Congress.

Following that, it could lead to uncertainty especially as the TPPA ministers are expected to meet in Guam starting May 26 on expectation that they could finalise the negotiations.

Hamim said todate Malaysia’s stand remained, and any decision would only be decided by the Cabinet.

“Malaysia todate still maintains the terms that we strive for (among others) the interests of Bumiputeras and small industries, medication issues and others.

“We are still firm on this. Our negotiators bring this mandate in every negotiation and no decision is made without the approval of the Cabinet,” he said.

Early last month, Minister of International Trade and Industry, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, said Malaysia would make a decision on its participation in the TPPA in the third quarter of this year after all the negotiations were completed.

The TPPA negotiation process, which has been going on for the last five years, is expected to complete by the first half of 2015. TPP is a free trade agreement initiative among 12 countries, namely Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam, involving a market of 800 million people with a combined gross domestic product worth US$27.5 trillion.

So far, more than 100 discussions and negotiations were held over the last few years by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to increase the level of understanding on the contents of the negotiations.

Up to April this year, the negotiations for 10 out of 29 chapters of the TPPA had been finalised, 10 were in the process of finalisation while nine others still needed more efforts such as international property ownership rights, environment, state-owned enterprises, investment as well as financial services. – Bernama


Similar article in the Malaysian Insider:
Trans-Pacific trade talks to proceed without US Senate support, says deputy minister

Update 1 from New Zealand:

The US Senate has voted not to give President Barack Obama so-called trade promotion authority, which would make it much easier for the US to fast-track its agreement to the deal.

The TPP requires the joint agreement of 12 countries, including New Zealand and Australia.

Senators voted 52-45 in favour of opening debate on a bill to allow trade promotion authority but fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass the motion.

The proposal was defeated mainly by the opposition of members of Mr Obama's own party, the Democrats, who wanted to add measures to protect US workers and prevent currency manipulation.

Washington correspondent Lorna Shaddick told Morning Report the setback was embarrassing for the president.

"The TPA [trade promotion authority] itself isn't dead; it just means that debate isn't being opened on it in Congress," she said.

"They'll have to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the legislation to try and redraw it in a way that is acceptable to both Democrats and Republicans to get it through the Senate, and then through the House."

Trade promotion authority would limit lawmakers to taking only a 'yes' or 'no' vote on any eventual trade deal without any power to amend it.

Ms Shaddick said an agreement between countries on the TPP was unlikely to be reached until negotiators knew that the free trade deal would pass in the US.

"President Obama may have to accept certain provisions in the [TPA] legislation in order to get it through the Senate, that he doesn't necessarily want, but those same provisions might in fact doom the negotiations that this legislation is supposed to boost. So - certainly some problems ahead for TPA and for TPP."

Listen to Washington correspondent Lorna Shaddick on Morning Report ( 4 min 48 sec )

The setback may spell an end to any likelihood of the US being able to sign up to the TPP before the next presidential election in late-2016.

New Zealand's Trade Minister Tim Groser, who had earlier suggested a deal on the TPP could be reached by mid-2015, said he was concerned at today's vote result.

Mr Groser said the hope had been to reach agreement on the "fundamental political deal" before the spring break in Washington at the beginning of August.

"Everybody - certainly my team and myself - believed they had to pass this legislation for us to enter into what we call the end-game negotiation," he said.

"The best you can say about it is that it's going to cause a delay in that process."

Isn't it just crazy that all kinds of laws and rules here in Japan and in all kinds of countries now depend on however the lawmakers in the United States happen to vote, this way or not?


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