Japan expected to announce entry to TPP free-trade talks this week


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to declare Japan’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations at a news conference Friday.

A government source on Tuesday confirmed this is the day being considered for the announcement. Abe is thought to be hoping to present his plan, and gain backing for it, at a general assembly of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Sunday.

Meanwhile, some of the countries already engaged in TPP discussions in Singapore have aired concern over Japan’s search for an exemption to scrap all tariffs for certain items, such as farm produce, after it joins the talks, a source close to the negotiations said Tuesday.

The LDP panel on the TPP is scheduled Wednesday night to draw up a set of demands for joining the trade talks, such as measures to protect the politically sensitive agricultural sector.

Some LDP lawmakers have expressed concern about, and opposition to, Japan taking part because of the potentially adverse impacts on domestic industries and the livelihood of citizens. If the discussions get too heated at the LDP panel, the date of announcement may be delayed.

After announcing Japan’s participation, the government will likely take steps to start the negotiations, including endorsements from the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Eleven countries are involved in the regional trade iniative.

Japan will unlikely enter into negotiations before June because the United States requires at least 90 days to secure congressional approval even if the administration endorses Japan’s participation.

In Singapore, meanwhile, the participating countries shared the view that they should request that Japan strictly adhere to what has already been agreed upon in previous rounds of negotiations, according to the source close to the negotiations.

The source said Japan’s participation was formally discussed at the meeting and certain countries expressed concern that Tokyo has sounded out to some of the 11 TPP member nations over exempting rice and other items from tariff elimination. The source said views were expressed at the meeting that Japan should enter into talks without setting preconditions.

In principle, the TPP calls for the elimination of all tariffs on all trade items. In December’s general election, the LDP pledged to oppose taking part in the negotiations unless exemptions to tariff eliminations are granted.

In his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in February, Abe confirmed that joining the free trade talks will not require a commitment to removing all tariffs.

The 11 TPP countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

  • Spudator

    Same old same old from Japan. Yes, we’ll join your international partnership/commission/treaty/whatever; just don’t expect us to abide by any of its rules.

    • Christopher-trier

      You mean the USA, don’t you?

      • Spudator

        Fair point, but hardly the issue.

        Here’s the problem: Japan wants to join the TPP, but, before it’s even started negotiations, is up to its usual shenanigans of demanding special treatment as if it’s somehow better than everyone else. One has to wonder what part of “free trade” or “elimination of all tariffs” the Japanese don’t understand. Or maybe the question should be why are the concepts of “give and take”, “fair play” and “win/win” rocket science to the Japanese?

        As always, Japan sees being part of the international community as an opportunity to feather its own nest while doing Sweet Fanny Adams in return. Time for Japan to cut this crap, show the rest of the world some respect, and quit cheating on its international obligations.

      • NemesisPrimev4

        Actually I want them to stay out. Have you read the leaked IP and Investment chapters?

        If Japan signs on then they’re gonna be HURTING because basicly corporations will have the power to trump governments by suing them for “Expected Future Profits” that they bleave will harm them or treat their investment “unfairly”.

      • Christopher-trier

        No, it is the issue. Any trade agreement the USA signs will be undermined by its own policies. US agricultural firms receive major government subsidies holding prices down and crushing international competition. The USA sees this as proper but demands that any other country open its borders to an unrestricted flow of US produce. If anything Japan is shrewd — and honest.

        You may accuse the Japanese of not understanding “free trade” and “elimination of all tariffs” but the USA has absolutely no grasp on the sovereignty of other countries or abiding by its own agreements and obligations. As such, any treaty with the USA should come with major stipulations if indeed any is desirable.

      • Spudator

        Well, I take your point about the USA always looking after No. 1. A couple of major food-related issues that come to mind are the US/EU banana wars and US attempts to force GM foods down the throats of European consumers. As a Brit, I have to say those disputes didn’t leave me feeling particularly well disposed towards the US.

        But don’t forget, the TPP isn’t just between the US and Japan: other countries stand to benefit from unhindered access to Japan’s markets too. Who knows?–we could end up seeing Vietnamese rice on our plates instead of the standard Japanese stodge. And with eleven member nations in the partnership–twelve when Japan joins–it should be possible to rein in the US and hammer out a deal that benefits all the members. If the negotiations are carried out properly, that will indeed be the case. It annoys me that Japan thinks it has some kind of special right to pre-empt that process. Why can’t the Japanese simply sit down at the negotiating table with the other countries as equals and discuss matters in the spirit of give-and-take?

        I’m not sure about your characterization of the Japanese as shrewd and honest. Based on my own dealings with companies here, I’ve come to the conclusion that, as a group, the Japanese tend to be sneaky and insincere. I hope they’ll turn over a new leaf at the TPP talks; but, given that they’ve already made a plea for special exemption, I expect they’re going to be up to their usual tricks.

      • NemesisPrimev4

        Actually I’m worried about them since in the “Investment Chapter” of the leaked TPP agreement it subjects member countries to investor-state arbitration that allows corporations to effectively raid the treasuries of governments by suing them with NO CAP if they deem it undermines “expected future profits” or “treats their investment unfairly.” Not to mention it allows for more offshoring of jobs and environmental regulations are gone plus they can’t make new laws that regulate if it is deemed that it undermines profits. TPP = BAD DEAL and not just for Japan but for ALL COUNTRIES.

      • Christopher-trier

        Please accept my apologies for not replying sooner. I was on holiday in Canada.

        By “honest” I meant that Japan will enter negotiations with the demand for special exemptions unlike a certain country between Canada and Mexico that claims to enter negotiations in good faith but then continue to break the terms it demanded.

        The problem with TPP is that the USA is in it. Because of the size of its economy and the fact that a number of countries are beholden to it the USA will have a disproportionate amount of influence in its terms. This influence is usually negative and many reasonably understandings and terms are undermined if not completely tossed aside because of American demands. There are the EU/US issues which you have mentioned. There is also the issue of maize in Mexico. Mexico in the past had tariffs on maize imports to protect small farmers whose livelihoods depended on that staple. As a part of NAFTA Mexico had to drop the tariffs but the USA continues to subsidise its major maize producers resulting in US maize being dumped onto the Mexican market leaving many small Mexican farmers with the means to support themselves. US demands on Jamaica during its financial crisis had similar effects. Jamaican farmers were undermined and often became unemployed because of US demands.

  • benjamin morse

    They need the FTA to be allowed to import LNG from the US. US can only export LNG to countries with which it has an FTA.

  • Christopher-trier

    That’s the problem with trying to enter into any trade agreement with the USA.

    They will violate the treaty as much as possible, of course, but pity any other country that has the nerve to try to protect critically important industries even if it is to a lesser extent than what the USA will do.