Noda: TPP talks to be on DPJ platform

Move may spur more defections from ruling party ahead of election

Kyodo

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Saturday that Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks will be included in the Democratic Party of Japan’s platform for the next general election.

“We will simultaneously pursue the TPP and a trilateral free-trade agreement among Japan, China and South Korea. This stance will be outlined in our election manifesto,” Noda told reporters in Fukuoka.

Japan is currently embroiled in territorial rows with both nations, and trade with China is particularly suffering as a result.

Noda’s remarks on the divisive issue came a day after his aides indicated he is working on formally announcing Japan’s entry into ongoing negotiations on the TPP framework by year’s end.

“We haven’t yet come up with any specifics about an announcement and its timing, but we’re making arrangements” regarding the TPP issue, Noda said.

Given that some DPJ members are fiercely resistant to Japan joining the TPP talks, Noda’s remarks could provoke some of them to defect in the runup to the next Lower House election, lawmakers and pundits said.

Opposition is not limited to the ruling camp, however, as the Liberal Democratic Party is also cautious about allowing the country to join the regional trade initiative.

Noda added he is unsure if the issue will become the main focus of attention in the next general election, but said the DPJ “needs to present its view to the public.”

In a policy speech at the start of the current Diet session Oct. 29, Noda proposed moving debate forward on joining the TPP, saying it is in the national interest.

Japan has held preliminary talks with countries already involved in the multilateral negotiations, but the government has yet to make an official announcement on participation in the face of vehement opposition from the farming sector, which fears an influx of cheap farm imports if all trade tariffs were to be abolished under the TPP.

The Asia-Pacific free-trade framework currently involves nine countries, including the United States, Singapore, Australia and Chile, while Canada and Mexico will also join soon.

On Saturday, DPJ executives attended meetings in Osaka and Fukuoka to report on progress based on the party’s 2009 election platform to rank-and-file members and supporters, as well as to ordinary voters.

Noda, who attended the Fukuoka meeting, apologized for the DPJ’s failure to achieve some of party’s campaign pledges, and admitted the budget calculations the DPJ made at the time were insufficient.

The party will hold similar meetings Sunday in Tokyo, Nagoya and Sapporo to win support in the runup to the next Lower House poll.

It plans to complete its draft election platform Friday.