why the tpp agreement will get passed in the diet

much is made of the upcoming diet discussions on the tpp agreement and the passage of related legal changes. we will see delaying tactics by the opposition and much ldp showmanship. here is why we should expect the bill to get passed in this diet session.

not only opposition lawmakers, but also many members of the ldp, japan’s ruling party, have been fuming over being shut out from much of the trans-pacific partnership (tpp) negotiations. the norin zoku (the ldp’s powerful agricultural grouping) in particular has rallied to attack the agreement. they even passed a resolution promising to block the tpp if it will excessively harm japan’s agricultural sector. and so the public is bracing for a stormy deliberation in the diet, japan’s parliament, on tpp in the weeks and months to come.

the most formidable potential opponent to the ratification of the tpp agreement in the diet is the ldp itself and its many disgruntled tpp opponents. much of their grandstanding that we will see in the upcoming diet deliberations will just be for show, however: to convince their constituents – and in particular their local japan agriculture association chapter – that they are fighting for farmer’s interests; in truth they are fighting to get to stick their fingers into prime minister abe’s pork barrel. after all, the destinations for the upcoming supplementary budgets to compensate farmers will need to be decided, too.

in fact, however, the tpp agreement has already cleared this most important hurdle – the agreement of the ldp’s rank and file. the tpp text was submitted to the diet for deliberation on tuesday, 8 march 2016. but this could happen only because the brunt of the coalition-building within the governing coalition of ldp and komeito (its coalition partner) had already been done by then: before any bill can reach the diet floor, it has to go through all levels of the ldp machinery (komeito has a similar process in place).

it first had to go through the ldp’s policy divisions – groupings of ldp politicians with special issue areas, such as agriculture or commerce – broadly formed along the lines of ministries. once it passed through these so-called bukai, the tpp text went up to the policy research council (headed by abe’s chum tomomi inada). once it received its blessing, it moved to the most powerful body in the ldp policy machinery, the general council – the meeting place that also includes (often very conservative) local representatives as well as the party grandees and the most important ldp leaders. once it got the go-ahead also from this council, it moved to the final destination: the joint meeting of ldp and komeito leaders. with its sanctioning of the tpp agreement just last week, yutaka miyauchi, the new domestic chief coordinator, could finally submit the text to the diet on tuesday, 8 march.

in essence then, the ldp diet members who will now start to put up a fight during the upcoming deliberations have already agreed to the tpp in principle, including those in the norin bukai (the ldp agricultural policy division headed by the young koizumi that also has a significant overlap in membership with the norin zoku in the diet). these ldp members are the only ones who could have seriously threatened the smooth ratification process. they decided not to. and the weak opposition is in no position to fundamentally torpedo the bill or prevent it from being ratified. all the newly formed democratic party and its‘allies’ can hope to achieve is delaying the vote, as has happened for instance with the india-japan social security treaty that has been stuck in the diet. the tpp, however, is to too high profile to end up in limbo.

so expect lots of clamouring and lots of the-squeaky-wheel-gets-the-grease style policy-making over the coming weeks. the good news is: the bill will pass. in many ways, the tpp agreement has actually already passed japan’s diet.