Farmers steadfast in TPP opposition

Kyodo

A farm industry leader said Japan should not join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade liberalization talks despite confirmation Friday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama that the prior abolition of all tariffs is not a prerequisite.

“We are opposed to Japan’s entry into the TPP negotiations under the current situation,” Akira Banzai, head of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, said Saturday, after Abe and Obama’s summit meeting at the White House. “The government and the ruling parties should not make a decision that leads to the abuse of our trust.”

While Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party administration has yet to compile an estimate of how the Pacific Rim free-trade initiative would affect the public’s daily lives, “a rushed decision on TPP entry will damage the national interest,” Banzai argued.

The agricultural sector fiercely opposes Japan’s participation in the TPP, fearing an immediate influx of bargain-basement farm imports under the accord’s zero tariff principle.

A statement on the TPP issued jointly by Abe and Obama after their summit talks Friday said both Tokyo and Washington recognize the existence of “bilateral trade sensitivities, such as certain agricultural products for Japan and certain manufactured products for the U.S.,” and that “the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations.”

In Hokkaido, around 70 dairy farmers gathered in the town of Kushiro to pore over the bilateral TPP statement. As it does not specify the items to be excluded from tariff elimination, Yoshio Sasawatari, secretary general of a Tokyo-based farmers’ group, told the meeting that “our concerns have not been eased at all.”

Another participant, 60-year-old Yoshio Kosugi from eastern Hokkaido, said his dairy farm business would be severely damaged if tariffs on butter and dried skimmed milk were removed.

“We have no chance against cheaper imported products,” Kosugi said, dismissing the TPP’s zero tariff principle as “just a fantasy.”