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Gov't abandons plans for TPP ratification during current Diet session

The government and ruling parties have given up on passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade pact and related bills during the current ordinary Diet session, multiple ruling party sources have said.

    The government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)-Komeito coalition decided to put off attempting to ratify the treaty and enact related bills as they determined that a combination of opposition party resistance and the Kyushu earthquake disaster response leaves insufficient time to deliberate the legislation. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is not planning to extend the current Diet session, which is scheduled to end on June 1. The government will instead carry the ratification and bills over to an extraordinary Diet session to be convened this autumn, to discuss them again in the House of Representatives for final approval and enactment.

    The ruling coalition had planned to make the TPP a centerpiece of its economic growth strategy, itself a major plank in the coalition's platform for the upcoming House of Councillors election campaign. As such, the coalition had originally envisioned ratifying the TPP and passing related legal changes in the lower house by the end of April, with final enactment by the end of the current Diet session. Time became tight, however, as opposition party members of a lower house special committee considering the TPP assailed the Abe administration for "hiding information" about the negotiations.

    LDP Diet affairs chief Tsutomu Sato and opposition Democratic Party (DP) Diet affairs chief Jun Azumi held talks in the Diet building on April 19. They agreed to postpone an April 20 debate session between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and opposition leaders in line with opposition demands that responses to the ongoing earthquakes be prioritized.

    The LDP called on the DP for cooperation in moving TPP deliberations forward as much as possible, and told the DP that LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki and his Komeito counterpart Yoshihisa Inoue would review the deliberation schedule at the beginning of next week. A ruling party official said on April 19, "It'll be difficult to have (TPP ratification and related bills) enacted during the current Diet session."

    The TPP pact is an agreement to abolish or reduce tariffs on agricultural, industrial and other products and unify wide-ranging rules for investments and other economic activities. The 12 participating countries signed the TPP agreement in February. The free trade pact will not take effect without ratification by the United States and Japan, and it is becoming increasingly possible that the U.S. will delay procedures for ratifying the deal until after the November presidential election.

    As such, ruling and opposition members are increasingly sounding a cautious note on TPP ratification, saying Japan need not rush to deliberate the pact. Still, the government and ruling parties wish to deliberate the TPP pact and related bills as much as possible during the current Diet session in a bid to ensure their enactment in autumn's extraordinary session. The LDP and the DP agreed on April 19 to hold question-and-answer sessions at the special TPP committee on April 20 and 22.

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