Japan's parliament has officially ratified the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, despite the significant obstacles that look set to derail the deal.
The upper house of the Japanese parliament voted to approve the deal by a margin of 165 to 70, following earlier approval by the lower house. This demonstrates the country's continued commitment to supporting the 12-country free trade pact, even in the face of opposition from US president-elect Donald Trump.
Mr Trump stated last month that he plans to pull the US out of the TPP agreement - which was signed in 2015 after seven years of discussions and negotiations - on his first day in office on January 20th 2017, calling it a "potential disaster" for the US and signifying his preference for bilateral trade deals, rather than broad-ranging multinational agreements.
However, prime minister Shinzo Abe - who has previously said TPP would be "meaningless" without the participation of the US - remains keen to persuade his new US counterpart to reverse his combative stance on the deal, which was set to become one of the broadest-ranging free trade agreements in history, eliminating or reducing tariffs and other barriers to trade in goods and services across the 12-nation bloc.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Japan's preference to persevere with TPP comes from a desire to improve trade links with both the US and the rest of Asia. It is believed to prefer TPP to the rival Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal, which is led by China, the region's largest economy.
Mr Abe said: "Japan's population is declining. If Japan is to maintain growth, it has to tap into Asia, which has a growing population and an expanding market."
If Mr Trump makes good on his pledge to pull the US out of the TPP deal, Japan will be left with the options of continuing with the agreement without the US, dropping it in favor of a bilateral deal, or prioritizing free trade with other nations.