Task force will aim to ease farmers’ TPP worries

Kyodo

The government plans to set up a top-level task force to strengthen the agriculture sector, which could face tough times if Japan joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework, government and ruling party sources said.

The ministerial-level task force, to be headed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and launched around May, will discuss how to promote farm product exports and preserve farmland, the sources said Tuesday.

Farmers say they fear their livelihoods will be devastated by an influx of cheap imported produce if Japan joins the TPP.

Because of their traditional support for the Liberal Democratic Party, the carry enough weight to warrant creation of a task force before the Upper House election this summer.

The task force will also discuss how to stabilize farmers’ earnings and how to train their successors.

Abe announced last month that Japan intends to join the trade liberalization negotiations that currently involve 11 nations, including the United States.

The task force is expected to include farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga and TPP minister Akira Amari, the sources said.

The administration has already decided to set up a working-level task force on TPP issues that will be headed by Amari.

The government estimates that ¥3 trillion of Japan’s current ¥7.1 trillion in agricultural produce would be lost if the country abolishes all tariffs to join the TPP.

On the other hand, the framework is expected to boost industrial exports and push up the nation’s gross domestic product by ¥3.2 trillion in a decade.