Rally staged in Tokyo to protest Japan’s entry into TPP talks

Kyodo

The nation’s largest farm lobby and consumer groups linked to the sector staged a protest rally Tuesday in Tokyo ahead of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s expected announcement that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.

Abe is expected to make the announcement at a press conference Thursday or Friday after his Liberal Democratic Party, many of whose members depend on the farm vote, presents its terms to his administration.

About 4,000 people took part in the rally, according to the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu), which is part of the Japan Agriculture group.

The farm lobby, which was joined by seven other groups, including consumer cooperatives linked to the highly state-protected farm and fisheries sectors, has long opposed Japan’s joining the U.S.-led trade talks on grounds that the elimination of tariffs would damage the agriculture sector with an influx of cheap imported produce.

“Anxiety and anger are spreading around us because we have not received a sufficient explanation from the government,” Akira Banzai, head of the union, said in his opening address, calling the TPP “a drastic agreement that will change the way the nation deals with food.”

The union has been arguing against points in a Japan-U.S. joint statement issued in February after Abe met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

The points at issue referred to Tokyo and Washington confirming that “all goods would be subject to negotiation” and that “the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations.”

The union’s position is that if Abe’s government soon signals its participation in the negotiations, this would renege on the LDP’s campaign pledge for the December election.

The LDP had pledged to oppose joining the negotiations if abolishing tariffs without exception was to be a precondition.

While the farm and other groups step up their calls against the TPP talks, executives of an LDP panel met Tuesday and agreed to present their terms, which include measures to protect domestic farm products, when they hold a plenary session Wednesday evening.

The LDP, whose members are split over joining the TPP talks, is expected to leave the final decision up Abe.

The nation’s major industries have advocated joining the TPP talks at an early stage to ensure Japanese businesses can hold onto their competitive edge and to ensure that consumers, most of whom are urban, can benefit from the huge free-trade deal.

  • phu

    While lobbyism is often a very backwards and destructive force, it’s hard not to feel for Japan’s agricultural sector, which has been coddled far too much for far too long, leading to a situation where a lot of honest people stand to lose out due to participation in the TPP.

    Unfortunately, there’s going to be a whole lot of this coming all over the world if we’re going to stop the stagnation and deterioration of the global economy. It’s going to hurt a lot of people, but the longer we put it off, the worse things will get before they get better.

    The only way to even attempt to mitigate this is to take a larger view, recognize who’s going to be hurt, and work with them to update their industries and expectations.

    • Mark Garrett

      Would you care to elaborate on how exactly you feel it will hurt the agricultural sector? I personally know a few local farmers that welcome the change. The only ones who will really feel the pain will be the lobbyists and bureaucrats who make up the JAkuza. The agrimafia has been in control for far too long in this country. We all appreciate the efforts they administered after WWII, however, that was 2 generations ago. Time to join the rest of the working class in the 21st century.

  • seetell

    The Japanese people have a right to see what’s in this perversion of a trade deal before Abe signs it. So far, negotiations are secret at the insistence of the US.

    “There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a trick, there is not a swindle, there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.” – Joseph Pulitzer

  • chatmo

    From economical point of view, the japanese government estimates that the participation for TPP will be beneficial for Japan’s reccession, creating effective competetion in the Japan’s agricultural market. The main goal of the LDP’s policy, after all, was that making the Japan’s economy strong and stable.
    Therefore, the conflict between the government and those engage in agricultural sector cannot easily be solved, neither could the latter stop the participation.Here is a real gillema, I guess. In any way,for now, the Japanese government will be forced to find a concession at some level.

  • Stacie Ford-Bonnelle

    Japan only has to look at U.S. agriculture agreements with Haiti (rice) and Mexico(corn) to see the future for their farmers. Farmers who have worked the land and maintained a culture of farming for generations. If these negotiations were so fair and even, why aren’t they public? This involves 11 nations with provisions to allow other to follow. How much do leaders of the nations in the region understand the process and what it means for their citizens if they join. An examination of the process and real public engagement is the only way to move forward.