About 300 people rallied Wednesday in Tokyo to pressure the government to defend Japanese tariffs on wood and fish products at forthcoming meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Malaysia.

During the meetings, which kick off on Friday, Japan is expecting an uphill battle against the United States and other members to avoid opening up its forestry and fishery products markets in accordance with APEC’s Early Voluntary Sectoral Liberalization program initiated at last year’s APEC summit in Canada.

Speaking at the headquarters of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Mutsutami Harada, chairman of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, called EVSL a “ridiculous demand” to the cheers of the die-hard crowd.

While maintaining that Japan has already lowered tariffs on wood and fish products in accordance with the 1993 Uruguay Round agricultural agreement, Harada warned that further tariff cuts would invite the destruction of the forestry and fishery industries in Asia.

Shoji Uemura, head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, said growing imports of fish products have already depressed prices, and that EVSL has compelled fishermen to worry about their future amid the recession.

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