The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement after ministers of the 11 remaining signatory states agreed in principle on Nov. 9 to implement the pact without the United States.
Question: What is "TPP11"?
Answer: The free trade deal was originally signed by 12 Pacific Rim states including Japan, the United States and Australia. The main pillar of the agreement was to abolish tariffs as much as possible within the bloc. The original member states signed the pact in February 2016, but U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was pulling the U.S. out of the TPP shortly after his January 2017 inauguration. Since it had been initially agreed that the pact would not come into force unless the U.S. joined, the 11 remaining states have been negotiating to form a new "TPP11" deal.
Q: How big is the combined economic output of those 11 states?
A: The remaining states are: Japan, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Mexico, Brunei, Chile, Peru, Canada, Malaysia and Vietnam. Their combined GDP accounts for 13 percent of world economy, down from 38 percent after the U.S. -- the world's biggest economy -- withdrew. Still, the total economic heft of the TPP11 nations is close to that of China's, the world's No. 2 economy accounting for 15 percent of the global economy.
Q: If they could agree with 12 states, shouldn't it be easier with 11?
A: Under the original agreement, the 11 countries let rules that could be disadvantageous to them slide because the TPP would make it easier for them to export to the United States. With the U.S. gone, however, the remaining signatory states requested rule changes during the negotiations. It was subsequently decided that some of the rules would be frozen to make room for the U.S.'s return to the deal. If too many rules were frozen, however, it would not allow for free trade. The key issue therefore was how to minimize the number of rules to be frozen.
Q: What's Japan's position?
A: As the country hopes to achieve economic growth through free trade, it led the negotiation to reduce the number of halted rules. Japan is insisting on the TPP deal partly because it wants to avoid bilateral negotiations with the United States, which could high-handedly demand Japan open its most sensitive markets. Rather, Japan would prefer to have the U.S. return to an established TPP framework. (Answers by Tomohiro Katahira, Business News Department)