Partnership deserves scrutiny

Akita

Keeping the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in the spotlight, as Reiji Yoshida has done with his Feb. 6 article, “Abe to meet Obama with hands tied,” is a fine idea.

It may help prevent powerful special interest groups from taking advantage of public apathy and quietly forcing the nation’s leaders to join it. But some points deserve greater consideration.

First, the TPP is about much more than agriculture. Some may claim that Japan’s health care system will not be a target for foreign investment and privatization under the TPP, but there is no way to ensure that abolishing all trade tariffs (a necessary precondition of joining) will not lead to this.

Second, the TPP dilemma is not a simple case of progressive, outward-looking nations going up against regressive, inward-looking states (with Japan considered among the latter). The U.S. auto industry is not exactly thrilled by the idea of Japan joining the TPP talks. Besides, the U.S. farm sector is heavily subsidized, and many large-scale farmers there are actually quite wealthy. Compare this with Japan’s farm sector.

Third, using GDP figures to argue for TPP participation is meaningless. There are far too many factors involved. Furthermore, as Joseph Stiglitz and his coauthors explain in their recent book, “Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up,” vast numbers of people can still be mired in poverty in a society with a high gross domestic product. Consider China, for example.

There is no guaranteed trickle-down.

Any nation that signs a promise to do away with all trade barriers by a certain date will have tied its hands (see Ian Fletcher’s book “Free Trade Doesn’t Work”). The TPP might look attractive to some, but in the long run, it will likely benefit only a minority of people in any country that ratifies it while harming the majority.

donald wood
akita

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.