Japan looks to use Pacific trade pact as shield from tough U.S. demands



Kyodo, Afp-Jiji | The Japan Times

Now that the year-end launch of a trans-Pacific free trade framework has become official, expectations are growing that it will provide Japan with a much-anticipated line of defense ahead of bilateral trade talks with the United States. The 11-member pact, once envisioned as a check on China’s clout but abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump as part of his “America First” agenda, will kick in on Dec. 30, economic revitalization minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Wednesday, after Australia became the sixth country to ratify the deal. Frantic behind-the-scenes, Japanese-led diplomacy kept a slimmed-down version of the pact alive among the remaining members after the U.S. withdrawal in hopes of a change of heart in Washington about eventually rejoining the deal. Even without the participation of the world’s largest economy, the deal, known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, has been described as a game-changer. It covers many rapidly growing economies that make up around 14 percent of world trade and was designed as a way of counterbalancing China’s might-is-right approach to commerce in the Asia-Pacific region. As well as binding countries into a tougher legal framework for trade, lowering tariffs and opening markets, the pact will also introduce new labor standards and force some governments to introduce competition in sectors long dominated by insiders and political cronies.  

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