More than 1,000 plaintiffs file lawsuit to keep Japan out of TPP

Kyodo, Bloomberg

More than 1,000 people filed a lawsuit against the government on Friday, seeking to halt Japan’s involvement in 12-country talks on a Pacific Rim free trade agreement, which they called “unconstitutional.”

A total of 1,063 plaintiffs, including lawmakers, claimed in the case brought to the Tokyo District Court that the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership would undermine their basic human rights under the Constitution.

The lawsuit is led by Masahiko Yamada, 73, a lawyer who served as agriculture minister in 2010 as part of the Democratic Party of Japan government.

“The TPP could violate the Japanese right to get stable food supply, or the right to live, guaranteed by Article 25 of the nation’s Constitution,” Yamada, who abandoned his party in 2012 over then-Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s push to join the TPP talks, said Thursday before the court filing.

The envisaged pact would benefit big corporations but would jeopardize the country’s food safety and medical systems, and destroy the domestic farm sector, according to the plaintiffs.

The litigation is another twist in efforts by Japan and the U.S., the top economies involved in the TPP, to expedite talks on the agreement that would cover about 40 percent of the world’s commerce.

An accord would deepen Japan’s dependence on farm imports and threaten its food security, Yamada said. Japan, which relies on imports for about 60 percent of its food needs, has cut its self-sufficiency target as the government expands trade deals.

An official at the Cabinet Office’s TPP task force declined to comment on the lawsuit.

While Japan and the U.S. have yet to reach a bilateral accord that would presumably pave the way for a 12-country agreement, the U.S. Senate advanced a measure Thursday that would allow President Barack Obama to accelerate approval of trade pacts.

Prospective members of the TPP have missed a series of deadlines since the U.S. said it would join the talks in 2009.The U.S. legislation granting trade promotion authority, or fast-track authority, is set to pass the Senate next week and move to the House. There, Obama has been courting reluctant Democrats to support the measure. He has said the authority is vital to wrapping up TPP negotiations.

Advocates have argued the far-flung trade deal would boost economic growth and create new jobs. The TPP could boost demand for Japan’s food exports among the 800 million people in the member nations, or 10 percent of global consumers, Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said last month. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a target of doubling the country’s food exports to ¥1 trillion by 2020.

The plaintiffs said the TPP would change a number of rules and regulations concerning people’s lives “for the sake of the freedom and profits of global corporations.”

They claimed that an influx of inexpensive foreign products under the tariff-cutting deal would harm domestic producers and lower Japan’s food self-sufficiency ratio.

They also said the pact would push up prices for medicines and violate people’s right to receive proper health care by favoring big pharmaceutical firms.

The TPP member nations have been negotiating to introduce an investor-state dispute settlement clause which would give a multinational company the right to sue a state for compensation. The plaintiffs expressed opposition to the clause, saying it would jeopardize Japan’s judicial independence.

They also pointed out that the secret nature of the TPP negotiations violates the people’s right to know, as the document is confidential and the negotiating process will be kept undisclosed for four years after the agreement takes effect.

Under the TPP, Japan could be forced to cut beef tariffs to 9 percent from 38.5 percent and pork duty to ¥50 per kilogram from a maximum ¥482, Yamada said.

“That would be a fatal blow to Japanese livestock farmers,” said Yamada, who used to run cattle and hog farms in his hometown in Nagasaki Prefecture before becoming a lawmaker in the House of Representatives in 1993.

He said his dream of expanding his farms to become one of the country’s largest meat producers did not come true because a U.S. ban on soybean exports in 1973 sent livestock feed prices soaring, making his business unprofitable.

The TPP negotiating members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

  • Liars N. Fools

    I am no fan of TPP but trade agreements are properly the responsibility of the political sector, cabinet and diet, and not the judiciary. Judges are not good arbitrators of essentially political arguments.

    • zer0_0zor0

      You obviously don’t understand the status of the Constitution with respect to a system of checks and balances.

      • Liars N. Fools

        And to Garceau, too, this article is about a law suit in Japan not America. But in America, too, the confirmation of trade agreements are the responsibility of the Congress, and the negotiation and signing of such deals are the responsibility of the executive branch. The courts play no role in this process. You do not like your Congressman? Vote him out.

      • Greg

        Too late, they have just sold you out.

      • zer0_0zor0

        You don’t understand the system of checks and balances and the role of the Constitution, as I stated above.

        This is fully an issue that can be assessed by the judiciary insofar as the “still secret) terms of the TPP can be construed as violating the Constitution.

        I don’t think that citizens have to wait until a trade agreement is ratified to challenge it when it appears to be being negotiated in a manner that contravenes basic rights and principles of the people as secured by the Constitution.

        Citizens can sue the Executive branch directly, this is not about elections of legislators.

      • Liars N. Fools

        Good luck on your suit. The judiciary under the constitution defers to the Executive branch’s political authority in carrying out foreign policy, which includes negotiating international agreements.

        Look it up. Try judicial deference to executive branch political actions on foreign policy.

        Rather than making abstruse constitutional arguments against TPP, you might want to explore political arguments. I am not too keen on TPP, and there are actually pretty good political arguments against it. You might try that path. It is constitutional, too.

      • zer0_0zor0

        You’re right about the Japanese judiciary deferring to the Executive, but that is a different issue.

        Here, since the TPP is more about geopolitical strategies than trade policy, it is already inherently political, but that doesn’t mean that the Abe administration can push for a treaty that contravenes the Constitution, and there are Articles that might be violated by some provisions of the TPP.

      • Greg

        You can read a few leaked details in a newsletter called Third Work Economics: Trends & Analysis, run out of Malaysia…

      • Greg

        The TPPA overrides any constitutions, how is this good, its corporate annexation, democracy is now finished.

      • zer0_0zor0

        In short, that’s precisely why it is an issue for the courts.

        The Executive branch cannot commit acts that violate the Articles of the Constitution.

        Democracy is not the issue, it is the system of checks and balances and the ability of the judiciary to halt violations of the Constitution–including the rights of the citizens–by the Executive branch.

      • Greg

        Which is why it wont get to court. In NZ we have a compliant judiciary that has covered up criminal acts by MPs, who still have their jobs. The suppression orders are to protect the victims identity, says it all. This deal is going through. Constitutions havnt matter in court cases already gone through this secret trade court, this is a done deal. They are running out of workers to exploit, so constitutions are ultimately worthless .

      • zer0_0zor0

        The problem of collusion between the judiciary and legislative branch is a different issue.

        The TPP is more about geopolitical strategies than trade policy, and the Abe administration can push for an international treaty that contravenes the Japanese Constitution, and there are Articles that might be violated by some provisions of the TPP.

      • Greg

        America is not giving up much of anything for this deal, except the foreign ownership restrictions removal being in it, and they wont be reducing their tariffs until 2030.
        It wont contain China, nor will Saudi Arabia let Obama pull out of the Middle East,
        This move might also be to suck up the baby boomer retirement payouts, when we stop working the tax take is going to plummet.
        Its also a shift away from corporate taxation, the promise of jobs wont be realized. Workers are being screwed.

    • John Garceau

      The political sector? My Rep. Tom Emmer has sold out to big Ag on the TPP. Our politicians cannot negotiate a better deal than if you let humans trade with no BS.

    • Ben

      i agree with what you say about trade agreements, but the TPP is not a trade agreement. it’s named a trade agreement, but the core of it regards law, rather than trade. what it sets out to do is circumvent judicial authority, and this is perfectly relevant for the judiciary to look into and block.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Good for Yamada-san; Noda was a finance sector tool.

    The TPP is not a free trade agreement, it’s a geopolitical strategy to integrate economies by subverting the legal status of the nation-state and transferring some of that status to multinational corporations.

    It is aimed at enabling Wall St., and other Western finance sector “foreign investors”–which basically own the corporations–assert a dominant influence over the member societies.

    It’s also aimed at China, intended to leverage Western finance (and to a lesser extent, intellectual property) as a weapon against China’s raw economic power.

  • Greg

    Dont worry Japan, corporations will love buying your land, since it removes foreign ownership restrictions.

    • Karl B. Hensel

      You allow to be led like animals. You deserve your journey to end at the slaughterhouse. Just be good subservient and file your lawsuits and march peacefully. By the way, how’s that working out for you?

  • Ben

    this is excellent news, really it should be happening in every country. in the past, an attempt to circumvent a country’s established rule of law would be called treason, no matter if those involved named it ‘trade’ or anything else.

  • Tesla_X

    People here in the USA know this TPP is a bad deal for the average person. It’s about draconian copyright enforcement, patents and big multinational corporation advantages…and crap for everyone else.

    Secret agreements like the TPP, like secret laws like America’s DISASTEROUS Obamacare (had to be passed before anyone knew what was in it, except for the big Insurance corporations knew how bad it was for the common man and small business), and secret science (like the environmental laws based on radical environmental standards that are driving USA manufacturing to China), are ALWAYS bad and always back room deals.

    Small things like fan subbing movies will be illegal, and people are already getting their doors kicked in by corporate Goons in Korea over these things that are legal today.

    Do you have a copy of a foreign movie that was never sold in your country but fan subbed into your language to enjoy till the real version came out at home in theaters?

    You’re a criminal now!

    Just a small taste of the TPP.

  • http://socialcritic.wordpress.com/ NEWS2VIEW

    Imagine a three-legged sack race, the outdoor game where participants race to the finish line while hitched to a partner. This image is apropos to the extreme form of “trade integration” favored by globalists.

    Just as Protectionism has been recognized by historians as the source of economic hardship and international animosities, I predict that one day proponents of regional integration (free-trade zones) will be characterized as similarly misguided.

    Those who have participated in a three-legged sack race know that such games are humorous because bodily movement is impaired to a degree that partners often tumble to the ground long before they cross the finish line.

    Trade integration, to the extent that it obliterates national identity, creates the legal equivalent of a three-legged sack race. When participants are on their feet, it appears the arrangement is feasible. Under ideal conditions, the whole may appear stronger than its parts. And yet if even one participant stumbles, all who are bound go down too.

    Falling to the ground in the economic sense could mean a greater market volatility on a global scale — a sort of “bipolar” scenario in which bubbles and busts become the economic norm. Falling to the ground on a political level would be characterized by losing the last of one’s ability to protect or advance the interests of one’s own people/nation. Falling to the ground for citizens within the TPP zone could mean less job security, costlier products and a poorer standard of living. Falling to the ground in the corporate sense may mean both filing for and fending off ever-more costly trade lawsuits, which will in turn contribute to costlier goods and services and reduced market shares in paradox to “reduced barriers”. In other words, WE ALL FALL DOWN.

    At minimum, we must expect this much: trans-national corporations who wish to pursue — or fend off — trade violation lawsuits will price their goods and services accordingly. This economic tunnel vision — the overriding fixation on the part of free-trade architects to lowering trade barriers — all but ignores the fact that a global scale necessitates a certain uniformity of global costs. In the long run, market efficiency gains may succumb to a monopoly “last man standing” international business climate. Under the three-legged sack race scenario, what initially presents as growth will ultimately fail as stagnation.

    I implore those who have greater sensibilities to recognize and demand of their respective leaders this much: Even in a globalized “small world” we must not lose our national identities (sovereignty). Whereas we once promoted too many boundaries — protectionism — we are increasingly falling victim to having too few.

    Attempts to make the world economy more “efficient” or “cooperative” with the help of one-size-fits-all trade law can only go so far in achieving the stated objectives before equal-but-opposite (paradoxical) consequences take place. Political leaders must instead call for a balance between cooperation and competition. This balance is not achieved by the TPP. It is to the peril of all member nations to intentionally cripple their own movement — legal/economic independence — to such a degree that the lowest-common denominator amongst participants drags down the whole. Economies must retain a degree of healthy divergence in order to foster competition, innovation, safety and job growth.

    The concept of “too much of a good thing” is utterly lost upon TPP proponents. Failure to foster a healthy level of independence within the international political and economic structures is akin to killing off a large population of wild animals, leaving only a small number to breed and reproduce. The strengths and weaknesses of the remaining breeding stock are amplified, but over time such inbreeding comes at an increasing cost to the health of the whole. We must recognize, similarly, that political and economic integration (inbreeding) ought never be fully sanctioned if we wish to maintain the checks-and-balances necessary to a healthy society and a promising economic future. It is not merely in our cooperation that we succeed. Our success as individuals, societies and economies is also a product of our differences — spurring novel ways to solve problems, think differently, promote growth and enforce justice.

    It is to our mutual benefit that we respect one another’s differences for that is the very essence of “keeping each other honest”. The TPP flies in the face of democracy and representational governance as we — anyone — have known it. The TPP keeps too many secrets — handing off authority to unelected technocrats and monied special interests who are empowered to seek “separate and unequal justice” in their sequestered international courts.

    Just as the Protectionists of generations past erred in their walled-off approach, global idealists have lost sight of the fact that economic interdependence can only go so far before it devolves into crony capitalism and “blackmail governance”. We need a healthy level of cooperation — economic fair play amongst nations — but that aim should not make of us economic codependents, forever bound to the frustration and futility of a three-legged sack race. In all things, we must strive for a balance. The TPP is far more than a trade deal. It’s a treaty that cedes so much power on the part of each individual nation that it requires an act of treason to support it.

    JUST SAY “NO” to the TTTP — the Treasonous Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership.