The Aug. 9 Bloomberg article “JA farm co-op behemoth puts self first, free trade last” was right on the mark about special interests’ preventing Japan’s comparatively inefficient agricultural system from evolving. However, some issues deserve greater emphasis.
For example, the JA national agricultural cooperative may indeed be guilty of having too much political power and stymieing change, but who else will stand up for Japan’s 2 million-plus part-time farmers when politicians, industrialists and econometricians liken them to a pestilence that must be eradicated for the national interest? How does it feel to be told, “Thanks for all your hard work up to this point — now, get lost!”?
Another issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself. Joining might be of some benefit to certain Japanese industries and make some politicians appear progressive, but serious questions remain:
(1) Would the chance to buy cheaper food at the expense of national self-sufficiency — which is already perilously low — truly be better for the nation as a whole? Japan’s regions would be severely damaged by TPP’s effects and grow more reliant on Tokyo.
(2) Is it advantageous for an entire society to outsource its food production and become largely dependent on other countries to feed it? TPP goes completely against the recent rise of “buy local” sustainable agriculture movements.
(3) Must we all become slaves to the “bottom line” — selfish utility maximizers? There is no basis for the assumption that national interest and individual happiness are necessarily bound to profit margins. JA stands in the way of Japan’s joining TPP, so certain people want to use TPP as a weapon to break JA.
I fear, though, that joining TPP would break Japan in the long run even if joining brings profits to some in the short run.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.