10 June 2008
Japan vows to ratify free trade accord with ASEAN
TOKYO (Thomson Financial) — Japan’s government vowed Tuesday to ratify a free-trade accord with ASEAN by extending a parliament session hampered by feuding with the opposition.
’Japan would be laughed at by the international community’ if the world’s second-largest economy fails to ratify the accord, chief government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.
He said the government planned to extend the current parliament session, which is due to end on Sunday, so that the ruling coalition can win approval for key legislation including the free trade accord.
Japan’s lower house approved the accord on May 22, but parliament debate on the accord and other key bills has been deadlocked in the upper house, where the opposition camp enjoys a majority.
The opposition has ramped up pressure on unpopular Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and is expected on Wednesday to introduce a censure motion against him over a controversial medical plan.
Under the constitution, international treaties signed by the government can be automatically ratified 30 days after the more powerful lower house gives its approval.
The deal was signed in April by Malaysia, the last of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to sign off on it.
Under the pact, about 90 percent of trade between Asia’s largest economy and the ASEAN bloc will be tariff-free within 10 years.
It will be the first multinational free trade agreement for Japan, which also has been seeking to conclude a flurry of bilateral pacts amid a breakdown in global trade negotiations.
Tokyo has reached bilateral deals with eight nations, six of which are in the ASEAN group — Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. The others are Chile and Mexico.