Noda takes flak in Diet over extra budget, free trade


Staff Writer

Opposition lawmakers lashed out at Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Monday over what they said is the administration’s unclear stance on whether to join free-trade talks, criticized components of the third extra budget for the Tohoku region reconstruction and called on him to dissolve the Lower House for a snap election.

Sadakazu Tanigaki, president of the Liberal Democratic Party, grilled Noda during a Lower House plenary session two days after Noda made a policy speech, over the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, which seeks to eliminate in principle all tariffs among member states.

“The government hasn’t provided enough information (on the TPP) so the public can’t even debate whether to join or not,” Tanigaki said. “They should actively disclose information . . . and show clearly whether they are going to join or not.”

Conflict between pro- and anti-TPP members within the Democratic Party of Japan has deepened as the DPJ-led government tries to reach a conclusion before the summit later this month of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The DPJ has launched a panel to discuss participation in the TPP, but about half of the party’s members have said they are against it and showed support for an anti-TPP group headed by former agriculture minister Masahiko Yamada.

Yamada has said he will leave the ruling party if the government joins the TPP.

In response to Tanigaki’s questioning, Noda said the government has been providing as much information on the TPP as possible and will keep doing so.

Tanigaki also said the period to redeem bonds financing the Tohoku reconstruction is too short.

“It’s unfair if we impose too much of a burden on the current generation, who suffered from the disaster,” he said.

The DPJ initially planned to redeem the reconstruction bonds in 10 years but later said the period can be 15 years, after New Komeito proposed it should be 15 to 20 years. The LDP wants the time period set at 60 years.

“We will deal with the issue in a flexible manner by listening sincerely to the opposition’s opinions,” Noda replied.

The DPJ, owing to its lack of a majority in the Upper House, needs the cooperation of opposition parties.

Noda stressed the importance of sharing the reconstruction burden with the current generation because young people will face a tough situation as society grays. “We should avoid shoving the burden onto future generations. The redemption period is based on that idea,” he said.

Tanigaki also criticized Noda for flip-flopping on such policies as deciding to raise the consumption tax for social welfare reform.

Former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama pledged that the consumption tax would not be raised in the next 20 years, but the Cabinet under his successor, Naoto Kan, decided that the 5 percent tax should be doubled in phases over the next four years to finance social welfare in the rapidly aging society.