TOKYO: Japan’s parliament ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal late Friday, but it was largely viewed as an empty gesture owing to opposition by US President-elect Donald Trump.
A majority of upper house lawmakers, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition, approved the bill, while the opposition voted against it, following last month’s passage through the powerful lower house.
Japan’s top government spokesman called the deal’s passage “a message to the world about Japan’s strong determination to promote free trade”.
“We will continue to urge signatory countries to swiftly” pass the bill, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters in Tokyo.
US President Barack Obama championed the 12-nation deal saying it would enable the United States to set the global trade agenda in the face of China’s increasing economic clout.
But Trump has strongly opposed the agreement, saying it would be bad for America and cost jobs, casting a huge shadow over its future.
Last month, Japan’s leader said the TPP would be “meaningless” without the US.
The US and Japan are the biggest members of the massive deal, which encompasses some 40 percent of the global economy. It also includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The deal, which has been years in the making, cannot be implemented in its current form without US ratification.
The TPP is seen as a counterweight to China, as Beijing expands its sphere of influence and promotes its own way of doing business—seen as often running counter to largely Western-set global standards that emphasize transparency and respect for human rights and the environment.
Abe has made the TPP a pillar of his growth platform to revive exports and the world’s number three economy.
But experts say that with Trump’s election the deal is a non-starter.
Trump says he is in favor of free trade but that existing deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico, have not been fairly negotiated and do not serve US interests.
The White House has warned that failure to approve TPP would put billions of dollars in US exports at risk to competition from China.