Farm co-ops plan petition drive against TPP

Kyodo

The national federation of agricultural cooperatives said Monday it plans to submit a petition to the Diet against Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, saying at least 350 of the 722 lawmakers support the submission of the petition.

The announcement by the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, also known as JA-Zenchu, was followed by a meeting between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and senior ruling party lawmakers, who confirmed plans to make a final decision on whether to join the talks before a regional summit on Nov. 12.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura indicated the same day that Japan has the option of leaving the talks if its conditions are not met, but later suggested to an opposition lawmaker that Tokyo would have to weigh the impact of such a move, if any, on Japan-U.S. relations.

“We will do everything in our power to block the country’s participation in the TPP,” said Akira Banzai, who heads the farm cooperative federation, at a news conference, adding that at least 350 lawmakers from both chambers of the Diet have lined up in support of the petition move.

The farm body, which has opposed joining the trade talks on the grounds that eliminating all tariffs will destroy the farming sector with an influx of cheap imports, will disclose a list of the lawmakers on Tuesday, Banzai said. It is expected to submit the petition around Wednesday.

Shinji Tarutoko, acting secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, told reporters after he met with Noda and other senior DPJ lawmakers that they exchanged views on the matter.

“I think it’s our basic stance” that the government will have decided on whether to join the talks by the time this year’s summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is held in Hawaii.

Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said the government will make its decision soon. The remark came during a meeting with Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Keidanren, the country’s most powerful business lobby. Yonekura has been pushing for strong political leadership on the matter.

At a news conference on Monday morning, Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura said, “Generally speaking, if diplomatic negotiations break down, (leaving the talks) is possible.”

But Fujimura said in a meeting with Social Democratic Party chief Mizuho Fukushima later in the day that Japan-U.S. relations are “important and weighty,” the opposition lawmaker said.

Doctors, nurses opposed

Kyodo

Doctors, nurses and pharmacists urged the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on Monday to think more carefully about the impact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement could have on the nation’s medical sector.

“We cannot support (Japan’s) participation in the TPP unless it is promised that the health insurance system covering all citizens will be firmly maintained and the safety and the reassurance of medical care will be ensured,” the Japan Medical Association said in a position paper released at a DPJ meeting on the U.S.-led free-trade framework.

The association said the TPP could lead to the entry of profit-driven overseas companies in Japan’s medical sector, prompting a rise in expenses and making it difficult for the poor to get medical care.

Industry leaders meanwhile are calling on the government to get in on the talks early to prevent its overseas rivals from getting an unfair advantage.

Nine countries involved in the TPP talks, including the United States and Australia, plan to reach a broad outline of the deal by the November summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.