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Uncoordinated LDP and railroading of TPP bills delay Paris Agreement approval

The clash between the ruling coalition and opposition parties over bills related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement in a Nov. 4 special committee meeting affected the schedule to approve the Paris Agreement climate change accord after some members in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) prioritized the TPP vote.

The LDP and its coalition partner Komeito as well as opposition party Nippon Ishin no Kai (formerly Initiatives from Osaka) rammed a bill to approve the TPP and related legislation through the House of Representatives special committee meeting on Nov. 4. The largest opposition Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party had walked out of the meeting to protest holding the vote without the resignation of farm minister Yuji Yamamoto, who has come under fire for repeated slips of the tongue.

The government and ruling parties now aim to pass the TPP bills at the lower house plenary session on Nov. 8. Rough sailing is expected in deliberation on the bills in the House of Councillors, however, and an extension of the Diet session scheduled to close on Nov. 30 is inevitable.

The Paris Agreement was expected to be approved in the Nov. 4 lower house plenary session as agreed on by the ruling and opposition parties, but the lack of intra-LDP coordination resulted in placing priority on the TPP vote.

The failure for the LDP to form intra-party consent became apparent past 2:30 p.m. Tsutomu Sato, chairman of the lower house Committee on Rules and Administration expressed outrage after learning that the special committee session for the TPP pact began amid protest from the opposition and said, "Why are they holding the meeting without my consent?"

Sato had postponed the plenary session's 1 p.m. start time to allow him time to negotiate with opposition lawmakers on the TPP special committee in an attempt to address the relentless calls for Yamamoto's resignation. However, TPP committee chairman Ryu Shionoya and director Hiroshi Moriyama reportedly did not tell Sato that the committee meeting had started.

It is rather ironic that the move to vote on the TPP bills was decided behind Sato's back, considering that Yamamoto's first blunder was when he said, "Mr. Sato will decide whether (the TPP-related) bills will be railroaded through the Diet." In response to the ambush, the opposition stiffened their attitude and the plenary session was not held that day.

Sato, lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima and LDP Diet Affairs Committee Chairman Wataru Takeshita expected the approval of the Paris Agreement to be prioritized at session, and the committee vote on TPP bills to be pushed back to Nov. 7.

Behind the LDP's intra-party disagreements are different views on the issue -- speaker Oshima and Sato see consideration of opposition views as important, while TPP special committee members such as Shionoya see it as difficult to pass the trade pact bills peacefully amid opposition protest. The fact that the TPP bill votes were postponed many times, despite government and ruling party hopes they would pass the lower house by the end of October, did not help intra-party coordination.

"I was surprised that Mr. Sato did not know about the vote (taking place on Nov. 4)," said Democratic Party lawmaker Kenta Izumi, who serves as a member in the lower house administration committee. "This kind of outrageous operation of the Diet is almost like the Kwangtung Army and Japanese government during World War II, where the administration could not keep the military in check."

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