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Ruling coalition abandons Nov. 8 vote on TPP bills, aiming for Nov. 10

The ruling coalition has abandoned putting bills related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement to a vote at a House of Representatives plenary session on Nov. 8 amid opposition party protests over gaffes by the farm minister.

The governing bloc is aiming to hold a vote on the bills -- one to ratify the pact and other relevant legislation -- at a full lower chamber session on Nov. 10. However, opposition parties are unlikely to accept the move.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partner Komeito rammed the bills through the lower house special committee on the issue on Nov. 4. The move stirred protests from opposition parties, which are critical of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yuji Yamamoto's recent verbal miscues regarding passage of the bills.

LDP and Komeito members continued on Nov. 7 to negotiate with opposition forces over its plan to put the bills to a vote on Nov. 8, but failed to reach common ground. The governing coalition told opposition parties during a meeting of those representing both blocs on Nov. 7 that the lower house would not vote on the bills on Nov. 8. As such, the ruling coalition is certain to fail to achieve its initial goal of seeing the bills clear the lower house before the U.S. presidential election.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a Nov. 7 meeting of LDP executives to speed up the process of passing the TPP bills into law, saying, "The ruling parties should cooperate in ratifying the TPP and the Paris Agreement" on global warming countermeasures.

LDP Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai admitted that the passage of the TPP bills has been delayed. "It has taken a bit too long," he told reporters.

Kenta Izumi of the largest opposition Democratic Party (DP), who represents opposition parties in the lower house Rules and Administration Committee, told reporters that the date of the next plenary session has not been fixed. A senior member of the DP's Diet Affairs Committee also said the Diet proceedings haven't got back on track.

The ruling and opposition blocs are poised to hold consultations on whether to go ahead with a lower chamber plenary session on Nov. 10.

Four opposition parties -- the DP, the Japanese Communist Party, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party -- are exploring the possibility of submitting a no-confidence motion against Yamamoto to the lower chamber. DP Secretary-General Yoshihiko Noda pointed out that "a stumbling block will remain" unless farm minister Yamamoto steps down.

The ruling coalition is now seeking to extend the current Diet session, which ends on Nov. 30.

In the meantime, Japan is set to ratify the Paris Agreement, a new framework for countermeasures against global warming that will come into force in 2020, as the ruling and opposition parties have agreed to put a bill to ratify the pact to a vote at a lower chamber plenary session on Nov. 8.

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