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Lawmaker heading TPP talks within LDP eyed as farm minister in Cabinet reshuffle

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering appointing Koya Nishikawa, who heads a Liberal Democratic Party panel on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, as farm minister in this week’s Cabinet reshuffle, a government source said Saturday.

The likely choice of Nishikawa appears aimed at pushing the broad negotiations involving 12 nations toward a conclusion, given that the Lower House member has extensive knowledge of farm policy.

Nishikawa worked to forge a party consensus on the TPP talks amid strong reservations among LDP members who think Japan should retain tariffs on certain key farm products to protect domestic agriculture from cheaper foreign products.

Abe is set to reshuffle his 19-member Cabinet on Wednesday, the first reshuffle since he returned as prime minister in December 2012. But he is expected to retain key Cabinet members, such as the finance and foreign ministers.

The focus had been on whether LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba, a potential contender in the ruling LDP’s presidential election next year, would agree to join the Abe Cabinet. But Ishiba on Friday expressed his willingness to accept Abe’s offer of a Cabinet post, shifting attention to other possible appointees.

There is further speculation that Eriko Yamatani, a House of Councilors member who heads the LDP’s task force on abduction issues, will be appointed state minister in charge of the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea. Yamatani, who was a special adviser to Abe during his first stint as prime minister between 2006 and 2007, maintains close ties with him.