Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a proposal to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement and approved related legislation.
The TPP bills cleared the lower house with support mainly from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, as well as the opposition Nippon Ishin no Kai. The bills were sent to the House of Councillors, the upper chamber, for further discussions.
The passage came after the lower house voted down a no-confidence motion against Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yuji Yamamoto, who was accused of gaffes regarding the handling of the TPP legislation.
The motion was jointly submitted by the Democratic Party and three other opposition parties and dismissed by a majority vote chiefly from the ruling camp.
Aiming to have the TPP bills enacted during the current Diet session, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his ruling bloc are considering extending the session, which is currently slated to end on Nov. 30, sources familiar with the situation said.
Options under consideration include extending the Diet session until around Dec. 10. Based on a constitutional provision, the TPP ratification proposal will be automatically enacted on Dec. 9 even if the upper house fails to vote on it.
Japan, the United States and 10 other countries signed the TPP in February. It will take effect once at least six of the 12 countries that account for 85 percent or more of their combined gross domestic product complete their domestic ratification procedures.
The Abe government regards the TPP as a pillar of its growth strategy. But the outlook for the trade deal going into effect is dimming as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump opposes the pact.
At a press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is working hard to win congressional approval of the TPP by the end of this year.
All 12 countries will proceed with their respective domestic ratification procedures, Suga said.
In the no-confidence motion, the opposition parties criticized Yamamoto for repeatedly making gaffes, including a comment last month that referred to the possibility of the ruling camp railroading the TPP legislation through the Diet.
At an LDP lawmaker’s party held earlier this month, Yamamoto also said he was nearly fired after telling a joke about the possibility of railroading the TPP ratification proposal. The LDP and the DP once agreed to put the TPP legislation to a vote last Friday, but the agreement was derailed by the comment.
The no-confidence motion said Yamamoto should be held responsible for his repeated abusive remarks and should not continue to work as agriculture minister.
Diet affairs chiefs of the four opposition parties agreed Thursday morning to oppose putting the TPP legislation to a vote following Trump’s win in the U.S. presidential election.
At a press conference, Kazunori Yamanoi, the DP’s Diet affairs chief, said Trump’s victory makes the TPP’s effectuation even more difficult. “It will be hard to win public support for railroading the TPP legislation under such circumstances.”Speech