Protesters rally to voice Pacific FTA farm fears

by Kazuaki Nagata

Thousands of people staged a rally Wednesday in central Tokyo to voice their opposition to Japan taking steps to join a U.S.-backed trans-Pacific free-trade agreement, saying it would destroy the farm sector.

Organizers said about 3,000 people attended the mass rally at Hibiya Park in Chiyoda Ward. Most participants appeared to be farmers from all over the nation and people working for agriculture-related groups such as Japan Agricultural Co-operatives.

“Although the government has postponed the decision to join the TPP negotiations, the Cabinet has decided to start consultations with related countries. Such a decision is deplorable,” Mamoru Moteki, president of the central union of JA, told the participants before the rally.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved a basic policy on FTAs, including the TPP, that says the government will start consulting with related countries while gathering information.

“We are against Japan joining the TPP negotiations. We absolutely cannot accept it,” Motegi told the crowd, prompting applause.

He added that the TPP pact requires participating nations to lift tariffs on all products without exceptions. This would likely deal a heavy blow to domestic products like rice, which is heavily protected.

According to the farm ministry, immediately abolishing tariffs on 19 major agriculture products, including rice and dairy items, without taking offsetting steps would decrease farm output by ¥4.1 trillion and chop ¥7.9 trillion off the real GDP.

The gathering also saw lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition camps, including Shizuka Kamei, who leads the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s junior partner Kokumin Shinto (People’s New Party), and Tadamori Oshima, vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Kamei pointed out that discussion of the TPP appeared out of nowhere recently.