A bill package which would have given U.S. President Barack Obama the necessary rights to complete negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership was rejected on Saturday in the House of Representatives, with most of the president’s own party member voting against it. This development has caused concern amongst the Asian countries who were hoping of sealing the partnership as soon as possible, such as Japan.
The bill in question sought to offer assistance to American workers who would have been affected by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but most importantly it would have offered fast-track authority to president Obama, meaning that it would have allowed the presidential authority to negotiate the deal and then present it to the Congress, who could either ratify or block the deal but not amend it.
Japan’s trade minister Akira Amari, who is also one of the lead negotiators in talks regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has acknowledge that the House’s vote has made the situation quite delicate, while not damning the talks one way or the other. He concluded with saying that the Japanese government will closely analyze the situation and the course of TPP-related efforts at the House of Representatives.
A more acid view on the matter was shared by leftist newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, who pointed out that Obama was closed out of having fast-track authority by his own party, indicating a weakening position of both his authority and future prospects regarding the partnership. TPP-skeptics throughout the country were reportedly jubilant when they heard the news, with the partnership garnering criticism especially from leftist and social justice groups.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is set to be the biggest free trade partnership in history, with it initially encompassing 11 states which encompass about 40 percent of global economy – the Unite States, Japan, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Brunei, Mexico, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam. Despite it being a free-trade agreement at its basis, negotiations have taken a more complex route and now encompass by extension areas such as the health and pharmaceutical industries, investor-state disputes or intellectual property.
The future of the partnership might also see China or South Korea being amongst other nations included in a potential second wave, although opinions are firmly divided regarding the former. While some analysts see the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a means of regaining U.S. and Japan some economic influence in South-Eastern Asia, while others suggest that Chinese introduction into the deal would strengthen Asian economic integration and will also encourage the Chinese government to make pro-market reforms.
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