DPJ set to block Abe government’s push to ratify TPP in current Diet session


The main opposition Democratic Party of Japan is considering blocking moves by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact during the current Diet session, a senior DPJ lawmaker said Friday.

The DPJ has compiled a draft report on TPP issues, claiming that Japan’s call for the five key farm product categories — rice, wheat, beef and pork, sugar and dairy products — to be exempt from tariff elimination is not sufficiently reflected in the TPP agreement.

But the LDP and its junior coalition partner, Komeito, are expected to take the DPJ to task for flip-flopping over any blockage of the trade pact. Then-Prime Minister and DPJ leader Yoshihiko Noda had been a driving force behind Japan’s participation in the multilateral TPP negotiations and announced that it would join them in November 2011.

Following a broad agreement on the trade pact reached by 12 countries in October, Abe’s administration plans to carry out necessary domestic procedures to ratify the TPP and pass related bills during the current Diet session.

In the draft report, the DPJ criticized the trade pact, saying tariffs on a substantial number of items in the five categories will be cut or abolished.

“We cannot say that sacred areas were secured,” the paper says.

The draft also says that while Tokyo had urged the Washington to abolish tariffs on the Japanese auto industry, the key “timing to abolish them on vehicles was set at least 15 years after” the agreement takes effect.

The Japanese side had sought a shorter grace period for the elimination of such tariffs. According to the deal, Japanese automobiles will start to be incrementally lowered 15 years after the agreement takes effect, halved in 20 years and eliminated in 25 years.

Furthermore, the draft report questioned the credibility of the government estimate released late last month that the TPP would boost Japan’s real gross domestic product by �13.6 trillion ($115 billion.)

The paper said prerequisites for the estimate were set “arbitrarily” and called on the government to offer detailed explanations behind the calculations.

The draft report was presented to a joint meeting of the DPJ and Ishin no To (Japan Innovation Party) on Friday, with the former asking Ishin no To to cooperate in blocking Diet approval of the trade pact.

The two opposition parties have formed a joint parliamentary group in the Lower House to challenge the ruling coalition led by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party.

The DPJ is expected to formally decide next week whether to vote against the bills, while it remains unclear how Ishin no To will respond, political observers have said.