Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Sanae Takaichi said Sunday that if Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decides to join the talks on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, he will have his party’s backing because Japan still has the option of skipping the free-trade pact.
“It is possible that Japan will take part in the talks, while aiming to protect national interests, and drop out of them if Japan does not meet the requirements,” she said on a Fuji Television program. “It is for the Cabinet to decide.”
As policy chief, Takaichi is expected to draw flak for endorsing Japan’s participation because many in the party are opposed to the TPP and feel it threatens the nation’s well-protected farm industry, which traditionally backs the LDP.
But Takaichi said the party’s Policy Research Council will present its own conditions for joining the negotiations and urge the government to withdraw if it cannot satisfy them.
She also denied suspicions raised by business circles that Abe will declare his intention to join the talks during his expected visit to the United States later this month.
“The prime minister will not suddenly declare this during an overseas trip,” Takaichi said.
The driving principle behind the TPP is to require all members of the free-trade pact to drop all tariffs. Japan’s farmers, however, fear this will lead to an influx of cheaper produce from overseas that will drive them out of business.
On the same TV program, economic and fiscal policy minister Akira Amari hinted that the TPP talks had his support but that he would also push for concessions.
“Cooperation between Japan and the United States is quite important in achieving development and stability in Asia,” he said.
“I will examine how flexible the United States can be toward Japan.”
During its campaign for the House of Representatives election on Dec. 16, the LDP said it would oppose participation in the bilateral preparatory consultations if Japan is required to accept the unconditional elimination of any tariffs.
Seiko Noda, the head of the LDP’s decision-making General Council, said on the same TV show that the party would keep its promises.
“We need to abide by our election campaign promises,” she said. “We must explain clearly to the voters to win them over” if the government decides to join the talks.
Education revision panel
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to form a panel of Cabinet ministers and private-sector experts this month to reshape the education system, sources said Sunday.
The panel will consider proposals made by the nationalist prime minister’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party during the election campaign last month.
The proposals called for a review of screening standards for textbooks, including the vague “provision seeking considerations” to Asian countries Japan invaded during the war, during the reshaping process.
They also included changes to the standard educational system of six years of elementary school, three years each of junior and senior high school, and four years of university.
The panel, which will include the revisionist Abe, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and education minister Hakubun Shimomura, is expected to make recommendations, including legislative changes.
Abe, who led the LDP to a victory in the Dec. 16 election, has been anxious to charge forward with the proposed measures. But New Komeito, the LDP’s Buddhist-backed coalition partner, is less enthusiastic.