• Kyodo


The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has adopted a resolution supporting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s expected announcement that Japan will take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks involving 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

In light of opposition from the agricultural sector, which remains deeply worried about a possible influx of cheap imports, the resolution endorsed Wednesday by the LDP’s panel on the TPP also called for the maintenance of tariffs on key farm products, especially rice, wheat, beef, dairy products and sugar. It also reflected worries that the TPP could hurt the domestic health insurance system, as the trade pact would allow for medical treatment overseas.

Calling for priority to be placed on safeguarding “vital interests” with regard to the farm and health insurance sectors, the resolution urged the government to walk away from the negotiating table if necessary. “We call for a crucial decision based on a century-long nation-building plan,” it said.

The LDP panel, part of the headquarters on foreign and economic policies under Abe, was scheduled to present it to the prime minister later Thursday. With the panel’s go-ahead, Abe is planning to formally announce Japan’s participation in the U.S.-led TPP talks at a news conference Friday, according to a government source.

Abe is planning to place economic revitalization minister Akira Amari in charge of negotiations on the TPP initiative, an aide to the prime minister said Wednesday.

A working group of New Komeito, the LDP’s junior coalition partner, agreed the same day that Abe should disclose estimates on the financial impact the TPP would have on Japan’s agricultural sector, among other industries.

The TPP calls for the elimination in principle of all tariffs on trade items among its members. In his talks with U.S. President Barack Obama in February, Abe confirmed that joining the ongoing negotiations would not require a prior commitment to abolish all tariffs.

Once Abe formally announces Tokyo’s intention to participate in the negotiations, his government will ask Australia, New Zealand and the United States to consent to Japan’s participation. The eight other TPP member states — Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — have already given their approval.

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