Business

As 11-member free trade pact moves closer to enactment, Japanese farmers express concern over increased imports

Kyodo

The progression of a sweeping 11-member free trade agreement was met with concern among the nation’s farmers Wednesday, with many expressing their anxiety over a possible influx of imports stemming from the agreement that’s set to enter into force Dec. 30.

Australia earlier in the day became the sixth nation to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, fulfilling the requirements for the tariff-cutting framework to take effect.

Tatsumi Dejima, a 60-year-old farmer in the village of Sarabetsu in Hokkaido, said the deal was ratified by member countries “rather fast.”

“If cheap dairy products start coming in from overseas, consumers will probably choose the imports. I fear it would be too late if countermeasures are taken after we start to be affected,” he said. Hokkaido produces half of Japan’s raw milk.

In Kagoshima Prefecture, which raises the largest number of pigs in Japan, Michio Ushidome, the head of an association of farmers of black pigs, expressed doubts about the touted benefits of the pact.

“Small farmers like us are unlikely to enjoy benefits from it,” he said, adding he hopes the rift between the pact’s signatories and the United States, which pulled out of the framework in 2017, would not grow to affect exports of Japanese farm products.

“We want (the government) to make sure it takes support measures if pig-farming businesses begin to feel the crunch,” Ushidome said.

Other farmers, including rice producer Mitsuo Ota in Daisen, Akita Prefecture, also worry about lower tariffs.

“It is something the government decided in consideration of the country’s trade overall. No matter how much we farmers oppose it, we have to follow the decision in the end,” Ota said.

The business sector, in contrast, welcomed the pact’s expected entry into force.

“It is an enormous achievement. We, as corporate managers, very much welcome the move,” said Hiroaki Nakanishi, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, commonly known as Keidanren.

Nakanishi said that even though he can understand the reasons behind the United States’ withdrawal from the framework, Japan needs to promote free trade deals.

“People should understand each country has its own circumstances to consider,” Nakanishi said.

Japan, the largest economy in the deal, is one of the five other countries to have ratified it, along with Mexico, Singapore, New Zealand and Canada.

Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam have yet to finish their domestic procedures.