The ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Friday compiled a set of proposals to help Japanese farmers and businesses cope with the likely impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.
The LDP’s policy paper places emphasis on measures to promote exports rather than those to directly protect domestic industries — a clear departure from the party’s past policy of allocating huge budgets to help farmers facing the effects of the impending free trade deal.
“The TPP can create vast opportunities for our country to expand businesses and employment, in particular for middle-sized, core companies in provincial regions,” the 11-page paper emphasized.
The LDP also urged the government to provide businesses with more information related to international trade procedures so that they can take advantage of the TPP agreement to sell more products overseas.
The policy proposals were submitted to the government later in the day.
The policy paper was adopted in an apparent bid to avert criticism that many past measures pushed by the LDP ended up being huge pork-barrel construction projects in rural areas.
In the paper, the LDP didn’t specifically discuss the size of budget allocations needed for the proposals, again apparently in the hope of staving off criticism of money politics.
From 1994 to 2001, Japan spent as much as ¥6.1 trillion to help domestic farmers mitigate the impact of the Uruguay round of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) free trade talks.
Ultimately, though, much of the funds were spent on works that did little to strengthen the country’s ailing agriculture sector, which comprises mainly aging farmers and few young workers.
The LDP’s latest paper includes measures to protect rice farmers and cattle and pig farmers. The party urged the government to buy the same amount of domestically grown rice as foreign rice imported under new quotas to be set up under the TPP deal.
The foreign rice should be stockpiled for emergencies so that the TPP will not impact prices on the domestic market, the paper argued.
Under the TPP, Japan would maintain tariffs on foreign rice but be initially obliged to import up to 56,000 tons of nontariff rice from the United States and Australia.
Currently, the agricultural ministry has funds to provide financial assistance to cattle and pig farmers if their quarterly production costs exceed past average earnings over the same period.
In the paper, the LDP demanded the compensation rate be raised from the current 80 percent to 90 percent of the cost-earning gap.
The TPP agreement, still pending ratification by key member countries including Japan, would eventually eliminate or considerably lower most of the country’s existing tariffs on agricultural and food products, including pork and beef.
The TPP pact aims to encourage trade between the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.