Thursday, September 8, 2016

Japan Supports TPP Membership for ASEAN Members

During this week’s meetings in Laos, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered to support any ASEAN country that wishes to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), according to the Japan Times:

“The TPP will not divide ASEAN,” Abe said. The importance placed on the TPP by Japan and the U.S. has been interpreted as an effort to counter the regional influence of China, which is not party to the pact. “The TPP was agreed after clearing political hurdles,” Abe said. “Japan will support ASEAN countries wishing to participate in the TPP so that they can bring their plans to fruition.”

This is important for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar because ASEAN members do not automatically qualify to accede to the TPP.  According to Article 30.4.1:

"1. This Agreement is open to accession by:

(a) any State or separate customs territory that is a member of APEC; and

(b) any other State or separate customs territory as the Parties may agree,

that is prepared to comply with the obligations in this Agreement, subject to such terms and conditions as may be agreed between the State or separate customs territory and the Parties, and following approval in accordance with the applicable legal procedures of each Party and acceding State or separate customs territory (accession candidate)."

Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar are not members of APEC, whereas Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are APEC members and satisfy these criteria.  Thus, Mr. Abe’s proposal will need to be supported by the other TPP members to qualify Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar for the TPP.  Given their less developed economies, these countries would probably be in a potential third group of TPP candidates, after countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and South Korea who are currently considering joining in the next wave.

In any event, the TPP needs ratification by its existing parties, particularly the U.S.  Without U.S. ratification, the TPP will not come into force, and that will largely depend on domestic political conditions in America.