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Japan’s farm tariffs not exempt from TPP talks: Malaysia trade minister

Kyodo

Japan will eventually have to eliminate the tariffs it imposes on imported farm products despite its intention to keep them as an exception in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations it plans to join later this month, Malaysia’s trade minister has indicated.

International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed said Tuesday in Tokyo: “We need to know how long that (agriculture) sector needs to be protected. I think there’s got to be some transitional arrangement” to ease the impact of the trade liberalization.

The central government estimates that Japan’s agricultural output will drop by ¥3 trillion from the current total of about ¥7.1 trillion if the tariffs are eliminated under the TPP and no compensation measures are taken.

Mustapa acknowledged Japan’s intention to protect rice and other sensitive farm products, saying every TPP country has domestic industries that need to be protected.

“We have our sensitive sector and Japan, of course, has that as well, so, by coming to the table at least we can discuss” and see if both sides can make a compromise, he said.

Japan on July 23 will become the 12th member of the trade liberalization talks, during the 18th round to be held in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, from July 15 to 25.

Mustapa said Japan may face difficulty in negotiating its interests when it joins the talks, as “whoever comes later, they’ve got to accept whatever has been agreed on.”

The existing TPP members — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam — are aiming to reach a broad agreement in October and conclude a deal by the end of the year.

While Japan’s upcoming participation has raised concern that it could slow down the talks, Mustapa said Japan has decided to join the negotiations, fully aware that what has been agreed upon in the previous rounds cannot be reopened.

He admitted negotiations are becoming more difficult as they progress, but said it is still “important to have an objective” in concluding a deal.

  • Masa Chekov

    Well goodbye Japanese agriculture then. The cost of land is too high here as are wages, etc for Japan to ever be competitive in a free agriculture market.

    I hope Japan doesn’t sell its heritage for cheap rice.

    • Mark Garrett

      A completely false statement. Why am I not surprised?
      You sound just like a JA talking head.
      Further proof that you’d rather believe the hype than actually research the subject.

      There are myriad opportunities for Japan’s agriculture to not only survive, but flourish. Of course it will require change, which unfortunately is something that is despised here.

      Not to worry, even if Japan starts importing cheap rice you will still have the choice to pay 778% more for good ole J-rice. That’s the beauty of a free market system.

      You do understand that rice consumption has dropped significantly over the last 50 years, right? It’s now less than half of what it was. I suppose, in the interest of protecting the farmers, everyone should be mandated to buy a certain quantity of rice per year. Does that sound reasonable?

      The J-gov is an enabler. Japanese farmers are hopelessly addicted to subsidies and tariffs, and we’re the ones paying for it. The agriculture, forestry, and fishing industry combined is only accountable for 1.3% of the gross national product. Take away fish and forestry and you’ve got a really small percentage of people, most of whom aren’t even full-time farmers, holding the economy hostage.

      Who do you think are the ones making all of the money here?? It’s not the farmers. It’s the “industry” folks. The stuffed shirts of JA. The lobbyists. The politicians getting their palms greased.

      Rice is a crop that is easily stored and shipped. It remains fresh for a long time making it excellent for import and export. It also is very labor intensive and requires vast amounts of water. There are many other profitable crops that can be grown (or raised) under far less demanding conditions. The key is a willingness to change. There it is, that nasty word again.

      The beauty of all this is that Japanese rice farmers will still be able to sell their product. There are plenty of folks around the world willing to pay top dollar for goods they deem to be superior. There have been numerous cases of a younger generation of farmers taking advantage of the Made in Japan logo and marketing their wares in China, Korea, etc.

      You’re a smart guy Masa. Stop being such a “yes” man for the industries here.

      • Masa Chekov

        No Mark, it’s the REALLY big money who is interested in TPP, not people looking to reform Japanese lives to make people’s lives better. Same as other rich countries in FT agreements with poorer ones.

        JA has nothing to do with this – I neither know nor care about their position. It is impossible to see how Japanese rice production will continue if not protected/subsidized after joining TPP, though. And that’s a fact.

      • Mark Garrett

        It will continue the same way any business should, on its merits. If you produce a good product and people want it you will make a profit.

      • Masa Chekov

        No Mark, because the playing field is far from level. It’s legalized dumping. A Malaysian farmer can bring in cheap laborers from Bangladesh and pay them 20,000 yen a month and work them 70 hours a week – there’s not much protection for workers there (and no minimum wage), and especially the large number of imported laborers that do menial work.

        How can Japan compete with that? Why SHOULD it compete with that? The playing field is level within Japan so farmers should compete on their own merits within Japan, but with other countries with very dodgy labor laws and very, very low salaries they cannot possibly compete.

        And they shouldn’t. It makes no sense for Japan at all.

      • Mark Garrett

        You do realize that in all other sectors of the business world the very scenario you described is played out on a daily basis, right? In the automotive industry manufacturers have been forced to outsource labor and parts to cut costs so that they can continue to compete in the global market. Of course having to do that puts the quality of the vehicles that they have built their reputations on in constant jeopardy.

        It’s the same in all of the other major industries. Do you think the labor practices of the countries they are doing business with are good, bad, fair? I’m sure you can find some of all of them. A free trade agreement doesn’t mean that Japan has to allow all goods in regardless of where and how they’re manufactured. It just means that the ones that are imported should not be taxed. There’s no reason why the government can’t or shouldn’t impose strict rules concerning the labor practices of those countries.

        I’ll say it again, there’s no reason Japanese farmers can’t compete with foreign producers. It’s not always about price. Putting the Made in Japan label on products still means something and there is a growing number of people who want to eat healthier. Of course having a nuclear power plant meltdown and a continuing cleanup problem certainly doesn’t help their cause.

      • Masa Chekov

        “Of course having to do that puts the quality of the vehicles that they have built their reputations on in constant jeopardy.”

        Bingo. Do you think this is a good thing for food security? We’re not talking about LCD TVs here, we’re talking about food. Japan already has a problem with too much imported food stuffs, it will only get worse with TPP and the resulting destruction of the agricultural sector. Which WILL happen.

        “There’s no reason why the government can’t or shouldn’t impose strict rules concerning the labor practices of those countries.”

        Will never happen. It doesn’t happen with food from China, garments from Bangladesh (and see where that gets us, 1000′s dead in industrial accidents that haven’t happened in the developed world for a century). Nobody cares as long as the products are cheaper.

        “I’ll say it again, there’s no reason Japanese farmers can’t compete with foreign producers.”

        And I’ll say it again – you’re delusional if you think people shop on anything other than price when it comes to staple foods.

        “Of course having a nuclear power plant meltdown and a continuing cleanup problem certainly doesn’t help their cause.”

        You still on about this? I see you never responded to my thorough point-by-point deconstruction of your Fukushima argument a few weeks ago. Why is that?

      • Mark Garrett

        So Japan is the only country in the world that relies on food imports?? You’re Japanese, right? You have to be to buy into all of the J-gov and JA scare tactics. You’re like a parrot the way you ape their nonsense. As long as there is arable land there will be food products grown and sold. Period. The only destruction will be to the JA golden goose, and good riddance.

        “Will never happen. It doesn’t happen with food from China, garments from Bangladesh (and see where that gets us, 1000′s dead in industrial accidents that haven’t happened in the developed world for a century). Nobody cares as long as the products are cheaper.”

        So you’re fully trusting in the government to put safety first where nuclear power is concerned (where the general public has little say) but you feel restrictions on food will never happen (where people decide with their money). That’s rich. You keep digging your hole deeper and deeper. Japan already has some of the strictest guidelines for imports in the world or have you never followed the “mad cow” fiasco and its repercussions?

        “And I’ll say it again – you’re delusional if you think people shop on anything other than price when it comes to staple foods.”

        According to the USDA, sales of organic foods have increased in the U.S. from $11 billion in 2004 to $27 billion in 2012. According to a NY Times article, organic foods typically cost anywhere from 20%-100% more than conventional goods. That would seem to pretty clearly refute your contention.You really ought to try researching subjects before getting owned.

        ” I see you never responded to my thorough point-by-point deconstruction of your Fukushima argument a few weeks ago. Why is that?”

        Considering all of the reports that have come out since supporting my position there was really no need to rub salt in the wound. I noticed you were conspicuously silent on those stories. Why is that?

      • Masa Chekov

        “So Japan is the only country in the world that relies on food imports?? ”

        No, but it relies on food imports more than just about any other industrialized nation. Right now Japan imports over 10x the food it imports… That’s really high.

        “You have to be to buy into all of the J-gov and JA scare tactics. You’re like a parrot the way you ape their nonsense.”

        ZZZZZ ad hominem. Tiring.

        “So you’re fully trusting in the government to put safety first where nuclear power is concerned (where the general public has little say)”

        Sigh… You continue to pump out these same misunderstandings even when I have discussed them with you repeatedly. If you aren’t going to be bothered to remember what I told you before…

        “Japan already has some of the strictest guidelines for imports in the world or have you never followed the “mad cow” fiasco and its repercussions?”

        That was about safety of the food supply in Japan. I’m talking about the social justice of exploiting very very cheap products (including foodstuffs) that are produced under VERY inequitable conditions. I thought you were supposed to be a progressive – don’t you care about that at all? I find it disgusting.

        “According to a NY Times article, organic foods typically cost anywhere from 20%-100% more than conventional goods. That would seem to pretty clearly refute your contention.”

        Aaand Japanese rice is way more than 20% higher priced than say Thai rice. You know this. 20-100% or 900%? Hmm.

        “You really ought to try researching subjects before getting owned.”

        You really ought to do some research on food security and social issues related to food security before you start snorting about your supposed debate victories, Mark.

        “Considering all of the reports that have come out since supporting my position there was really no need to rub salt in the wound.”

        Your position??? You didn’t have a position! I made that abundantly clear, so much so that you didn’t bother to reply to what I said despite clearly reading and posting on other articles.

        ” I noticed you were conspicuously silent on those stories. Why is that?”

        Mostly out of the country for the past few weeks. Back now. I’m curious as to how “all these articles” you refer to back you up in any way? It’s quite obvious in regards to both physics and epidemiology that you don’t have any understanding whatsoever.

      • MeTed

        Go Mark!!!

        If Japan wants access to foreign markets, then it must allow access to its markets. Simple as that.

        Masa,
        “Nobody cares as long as the products are cheaper.” Are the Japanese that fickle? I don’t think so.

        The sooner Japan gets rid of its excessive farming tariffs the better for the 99% of Japanese who aren’t on the tariff gravy train.