TOKYO -- Japan approved a legislative project Wednesday to ratify the Regional Comprehensive Economic Association, the largest free trade agreement in the world, and called it "the foundation for trade in Asia."
The measure represents a further step toward the implementation of the pact closed in November at a 15-country virtual summit in Asia-Pacific, composed of Japan – the world’s third-largest economy – and China, the second.
The pact must be endorsed by Japan’s parliament, expected to happen "at an early date" before the end of the current parliamentary session in June, Trade Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said at a Wednesday press conference.
The minister said the agreement will serve as a "foundation for trade" in the Asia-Pacific region and to "establish a proper economic order."
The trade pact will be the first to bring Tokyo and – Japan's main trading partner– Beijing together, as well as South Korea and countries such as Australia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam.
For its entry into force, the association must be ratified by at least six Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members and three of its external partners. The treaty is seen as a platform that supports China’s strength as an Asia-Pacific economic power, to the detriment of the United States.
The agreement will eliminate about 90 percent of import tariffs within two decades of its entry into force, and will establish common rules on investment, electronic commerce or intellectual property.
The gross domestic product of the signatory countries is equivalent to 30 percent of the global economy, while the agreement represents about 28 percent of world trade and a market of about 2.2 billion people, about a third of the world’s population.