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Abe vows to set up new groups to rev up farm exports

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged Monday to set up new organizations in an attempt to bolster exports of farm products, with an eye toward the establishment of a U.S.-led Pacific free trade pact.

Abe also said at a meeting of the Industrial Competitiveness Council that his government will promote deregulation to prod more companies to conduct business in agriculture, aiming to strengthen international competitiveness of the sector.

His remarks came amid lingering fears that the envisioned Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact could trigger an influx of cheaper farming products from overseas under lowered tariffs, posing a serious threat to Japan’s heavily protected but aging farmers.

At the gathering Monday, Lawson Inc. Chief Executive Officer Takeshi Niinami, a private-sector member of the panel, asked the government to let farm producers create organizations one by one, such as for beef or seafood, to help them develop their marketing missions abroad.

Agreeing on the idea, Abe said: “We will make every effort to enhance brand image” of Japanese farming products.

The government’s key economic panel has finalized its proposals on how to reform the farming sector, which are expected to be incorporated in the new longer-term economic and fiscal policy blueprint scheduled to be compiled by the government in June.

The Council for Regulatory Reform, another government panel, last week urged the government to allow local agricultural cooperatives to manage their businesses more freely, rather than retaining the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives as their umbrella organization.

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