Why Is Japan Now Pushing Ahead on a TPP Without the U.S.?

Why Is Japan Now Pushing Ahead on a TPP Without the U.S.?
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso during their joint press conference at the prime minister's office, Tokyo, April 18, 2017 (AP photo by Eugene Hoshiko).

After spending the past few months skeptical of reviving the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Donald Trump formally withdrew the United States from in January just after he took office, Japan has changed tack and is now looking to press ahead on finalizing the major Pacific Rim trade deal with the 10 other signatory states. The about-face on the TPP by Japan, which is the largest remaining economy in the deal, came ahead of a critical meeting this week of the signatories, known as the TPP-11, looking for a path forward without the United States.

The meeting, held in Toronto, was a first step to discuss whether the TPP is still possible in some form without Washington’s support. Japan, Canada and other member countries were not optimistic earlier this year. Now, though, Japan is leading the push for a new agreement that it hopes could be finalized, in the best-case scenario, at the end of this year on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings in Vietnam.

Under the rules of the current agreement, it is impossible to move forward and ratify the TPP without U.S. involvement. Therefore the focus is on constructing some kind of new cover for the TPP-11 with the same framework and rules negotiated in the TPP. The absence of the U.S. remains a major hurdle, especially because several members, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, made tough concessions on market access simply due to the U.S. inclusion in the deal.

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