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Japan, U.S. Push for TPP Approval

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama are pushing for approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year. Due to its ratification rules, the 12-nation trade pact covering 40% of the world economy cannot take effect without the backing of its two largest members.

“If you don’t have exports, you’re going to have a hard time in the farm economy,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told a National Press Club luncheon when asked about the benefits of TPP. Some 20% of farm income is generated by exports.

The lame-duck congressional session opening in mid-November is the last chance for the Obama administration to steer TPP to passage and is regarded by farm groups as the best chance for success, since president-elect Donald Trump opposes the pact. Congressional leaders have resisted putting TPP on the calendar because of voters’ anti-trade sentiment.

In Japan, Abe set sights on passage during a parliamentary session that ends November 30, telling a group of his cabinet ministers that prompt action will “build momentum” in other TPP countries — a description that was interpreted as including the U.S.

Australia has not said when it will consider TPP. Vietnam has signaled that it may delay a vote in Parliament until the big players in TPP take a stand. Malaysia says it expects to act in the first half of 2017.

For U.S. agriculture, the big prize in TPP is wider access to Japan’s food market. The White House says there is a double benefit in TPP — more U.S. exports and creation of a buffer against Chinese domination of the Asian market.

This article was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an independent, non-profit news organization producing investigative reporting on food, agriculture and environmental health.

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