• Kyodo

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Japan should not compromise in international talks on liberalizing farm trade because “the survival of (the Japanese) people is at stake,” a lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said Monday.

Shin Sakurai made the remark after he and fellow LDP lawmaker Toshikatsu Matsuoka held talks with World Trade Organization Director General Supachai Panitchpakdi.

While only 3 percent of Japan’s population is involved in farming, those in the sector are thought to be reliable LDP voters who hold enormous political sway.

Japan, which is resisting sharp tariff reductions in farm products, is arguing that agriculture has more than an economic function and helps protect the environment and prevent natural disasters.

Sakurai told reporters that Japan will have no choice but to reject a liberalization plan if it only serves the interests of farm product exporting countries, even if the refusal prevents WTO member states from reaching a basic accord on the issue by the March 31 deadline.

Matsuoka said trade in agricultural products “cannot be liberalized in the same way as liberalizing trade in industrial products.”

In Japan, rice paddies play the same roles as dams in that both can prevent natural disasters, he said.

The two legislators said they urged Supachai to take the interests of Japan and other countries that import farm products into account in the negotiations.

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