Anti-, pro-TPP campaigns heat up before Noda meets Obama


Campaigns by both supporters and opponents of Japan’s proposed participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact gathered steam Wednesday ahead of a key Japan-U.S. next week in Washington.

About 3,000 protesters staged a rally in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park that was jointly organized by agricultural and consumers’ groups.

“If the government announces Japan’s participation in the (TPP) negotiations without building a national consensus, we can only describe that as an act of betrayal against its citizens,” their joint statement said.

Akira Banzai, who heads the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu), accused the government of being high-handed and said it is deliberately only disclosing information that casts Japan’s potential entry into the TPP multilateral negotiations in a positive light.

“Unless (the government) gives up on its plan to joint the discussions, our fears will persist,” he said.

The Japan Association of Corporate Executives meanwhile issued a statement the same day urging the government to participate in and advance high-level talks on free-trade agreements, including the TPP.

The government must “engage in diplomatic efforts strategically and multilaterally to realize the early conclusion of negotiations on crucial (FTAs), including the TPP,” the association said in the statement.

The renewed momentum among both those in favor of and against the TPP was triggered last week, when Tadashi Okamura, chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, appealed to trade minister Yukio Edano for the government to arrive at a swift decision on Japan’s participation in the multilateral TPP discussions.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is scheduled to meet Monday with U.S. President Barack Obama, has said he is in no rush to reach a conclusion on entering the TPP negotiations. This has been interpreted in some quarters as an indication he will not make a decision until he visits Washington and meets with Obama.

Noda formally announced Japan’s interest in joining the TPP talks in November, and officials have since held a number of consultations with countries already involved in the negotiations to win their approval over Tokyo’s participation — a prerequisite for joining the negotiations.