US fast-track bill indispensable for TPP agreement: Japan official

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japan’s top government spokesman said on Wednesday that a fast-track bill in the United States was necessary for the creation of a 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a free trade zone covering 40 per cent of the world economy.  

US President Barack Obama’s push for the pan-Pacific trade pact suffered a major blow on Tuesday when Senate Democrats blocked debate on the fast track bill.

“Each negotiating member nation considers the TPA (Trade Promotion Authority) bill indispensable towards an early agreement on TPP talks,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. “Japan strongly hopes an early enactment of the bill in the US.”

Under fast-track, Congress can approve or reject trade deals negotiated by the administration but not amend deals such as the TPP, a potential legacy-defining achievement for Obama.

Meanwhile, Japan's chief negotiator for the TPP said there was no change to the goal of holding ministerial level talks despite the US Senate move, Jiji news agency reported on Wednesday.

Koji Tsuruoka said it is unclear if ministers could make a political decision on the TPP if the trade promotion bill in the US is not passed, Jiji said.

Ministers from the 12 countries are expected to hold talks from May 26-28 in the Philippines.

Tsuruoka, speaking to reporters before heading to Guam for TPP chief negotiator talks from May 15, said no effort will be spared in pursuing progress on trade negotiations, Jiji added.