Category Archives: FTA

Japan Resources – No 168

Please click here CUJ-JR-168 for the latest issue of Consumer Union of Japan’s English newsletter, Japan Resources (PDF).

In this issue we share articles about our recent activities. During the summer, we started a campaign against artificial fragrances, an irritant for many as corporate profit comes before consumers’ concerns. On the international front, while Japan is trying to revive the controversial TPP agreement, it has also announced progress regarding the economic partnership with the European Union. It is hard not to reach the conclusion that Japan’s government is making a calculated choice to keep ignoring citizens and consumers.

We hope you will continue to stay updated with CUJ’s activities and news on our English website, and support our campaigns!

Contents:

From the Editors: Ignoring Consumers
Consumers in Japan and Europe want Guarantees for a Positive Trade Agreement
Campaign against Artificial Fragrances
GM Food Awareness Survey Conducted by Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency
Newsflash: Nagoya Protocol Ratified
Event: International Film Festival on Organic Farming

Please download the attached PDF file or read it on our English website.

CUJ Resolutions at the 42nd Annual Meeting in June, 2015

Save the welfare system in Japan1) We oppose the security bills aimed at changing Japan’s constitution, and urge the government to protect the people’s right to live in peace and safety

70 years after the end of WW2, the Japanese government is introducing a number of controversial bills to change the post-war constitution, allowing for a more active military role for Japan. For 70 years, we have lived as peaceful consumers and workers. Our way of peacefully earning a living is now being destroyed as the Abe Cabinet tries to abolish Article 9 of the constitution, and allow for collective self-defense, which ultimately means Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (SDF) will be turned into a regular military force. This will also mean that Japan once again will be a country that can wage wars.

Consumers Union of Japan strongly opposes this as an attempt to infringe on our human rights. We want to remind the government that consumers have rights, including the pursuit of happiness and a safe livelihood. We take this to mean that we have the right to live in peace and safety. Consumers Union of Japan demands that the Abe Cabinet immediately withdraws the proposed bills to change the constitution and hereby declare that we are a part of the movement to oppose the proposed security bills.

2) We oppose the continued reliance on nuclear power

After the March 11, 2011 nuclear disaster at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, it became clear that relying on nuclear power is a dead end for society. In spite of this, the Abe Cabinet announced its new energy policy in April, 2015, stating that Japan should continue to rely on nuclear power, defining it as an “important base-load power source,” and sticking to its policy of promoting the nuclear fuel cycle. The government is already set to approve the restart of the Sendai and Takahama Nuclear Plants, and is making efforts to export nuclear power technology to other countries.

Meanwhile, in Fukushima Prefecture, some 120,000 people are still unable to return to their homes near the site of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. We note that it was a man-made disaster, and that the melted-down reactors still emit over 320 tons of radioactive water every day as they must be kept cool. Efforts to create a frozen wall around the complex failed. Also, workers on the site are being exposed to radiation in a perfunctory and careless way by the management. This is a clear human rights violation. In January, the government and TEPCO suggested that radioactive water should be disposed of into the ocean, something we cannot accept.

The Japanese archipelago with its active volcanos and many frequent earthquakes is particularly unsuitable for nuclear power. When accidents occur, radioactive substances will be released into the environment, with radioactive fallout including plutonium. Spent nuclear fuel also cannot be reprocessed without creating plutonium, and so far Japan has created 47 tons of this extremely dangerous radioactive material which can be used in nuclear weapons. The “deathly ash” (highly radioactive waste) has a half-life of 10,000 years. Also, mining for uranium is fraught with danger. All this points to a collusion of lies and cover-ups to make continued operation possible, as the basic truth is that radioactive substances can never coexist with living beings.

At the moment, not a single nuclear reactor is in operation in Japan. Even so, we basically have sufficient electricity. Higher costs for electricity seem to be the only reason to restart the currently idle nuclear power plants. We support independent efforts to save energy and reduce energy consumption for a peaceful livelihood for everyone, including for future generations. We look forward to a society that wisely relies on natural, renewable energy based on the “local production, local consumption” principle for all the people in the world, with zero reliance on nuclear power.

3) We oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership that will destroy our livelihoods as consumers

At this very moment, secret negotiations behind closed doors for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement is ongoing, involving 12 countries; Japan and the United States are among these. But in reality, it has nothing to do with “free trade” but instead, it will give immense powers to a handful multi-national corporations that want to create an overt supra-national framework to avoid national or local governmental control.

TPP is part of a larger global campaign for “free trade” agreements (FTAs) that will impose rules on intellectual property with extended copyright protection periods (including strengthened exclusive licensing, with consequences for access to medicines). The new rules being introduced for foreign direct investment are a direct threat to our public services, as foreign corporations will be able to sue governments if they feel they are treated unfairly under national or local rules. Various regulations to provide welfare services through public means could thus be challenged by privately held multinational corporations. In particular, obscure new ISDS rules would grant an investor the right to use dispute settlement proceedings against the Japanese government. The secretive TPP negotiation process indicates that the “profit for the 1% of the elite” will be creating much hardship for the 99% of the population who are workers, consumers, farmers/fishermen – the vast majority of citizens. This is the reason so many voices of opposition have been raised against the TPP.

To show our strong opposition to TPP, Consumers Union of Japan published an op-ed in October, 2014 together with Public Citizens. We noted:

What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment. From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.

Meanwhile, under U.S. free trade agreements alone, other governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. For consumers, rules that ensure the safety of imported food or information through mandatory food labels are examples of standards that TPP may do away with. For example, we are extremely concerned that Japan’s mandatory GMO labelling rules may be considered to fall under the category of “barriers to free trade” and become a target.

The fact that the TPP negotiations are not held in the open is a main cause of our concern. We remain in strong opposition to TPP for the dangerous reasons stated above, and resolve to continue to fight against it entering into force.

4) We oppose the bills for the expanded use of the National Identification System (“My Number”) and wire-tapping by the government

The Abe Cabinet wants Japan to “escape (or depart) from the post-war regime.” A National Security Council has been established, and a new law for special state secrets enacted. As part of this, expanded powers for wire-tapping of phone calls or emails have been introduced to aid criminal investigations. The new powers go beyond serious crimes (murder, drug dealing, weapon smuggling) to include general criminal activity of any kind. The extended rules for wire-tapping mean telecommunication carriers will now be monitored 24 hours a day, basically giving free range to the political forces that wish to monitor any phone calls or email activity.

The next target is a bill to criminalize so-called conspiracy. Potentially, this will cover any activity, including campaigns by non-governmental organizations, citizens groups or even consumer organizations. What the Abe Cabinet has said it wants to do is to create “the world’s most corporation-friendly country.” This explains the continued push for a national identification number system, known as “My Number” in katakana in Japanese. Under this system, everyone will be assigned a 12 digit number for total control of all citizens. Moreover, corporations will have easy access to each individual’s private information. The new bills weaken the Personal Information Protection Law (2003) and in particular, by encouraging the creation of Big Data the current government is handing over information about our private worlds to the corporate world.

Already, information security is being violated. Driving home this point, important private information such as pension data was recently leaked in the spring of 2015. The national pension system was simply hacked, leading to 1.25 million cases of personal data being leaked from the Japan Pension Service. With more and more efforts to amass Big Data about consumer behaviour and other aspects of our daily lives, the potential for such violations are increasing.

We see similarities in how the new legislation will suffocate citizens, stifle journalism and limit our democratic rights – just like in the pre-WW2 period. In that era too, corporations were given increased power as the country headed for war. We find that unacceptable. Consequently, we oppose the bills for increased wire-tapping, the introduction of the “My Number” system, the revision of the Personal Information Protection Law (2003), and the new definition of conspiracy crime. We are strongly opposed to Japan becoming a country that can wage wars, and resolve to protect Japan’s democracy and human rights.

(Resolutions adopted at Consumers Union of Japan’s 42nd Annual Meeting on June 20, 2015)

BSE: Keep Strict Rules To Eradicate Mad Cow Disease

Withdraw Plans to Reexamine Japan’s Strict Measures against Mad Cow Disease

December 9, 2011

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) decided on December 9, 2011 to consider reexamining the legal measures against Mad Cow Disease and to ask the BSE committee of the Food Safety Commission to deal with the issue by the end of the year. 

We regard the easing of the present BSE inspection standards to have only one purpose, namely to make it possible to resume beef imports from the United States. 

Food Safety Citizens’ Watch and Consumers Union of Japan have sent the following letter of protest on December 9, 2011, demanding that the Japanese government should withdraw its reexamination plans and instead continue to protect consumers against BSE. 

Protest Letter: Withdraw Plans to Reexamine Japan’s Strict BSE Measures! 

On October 31, 2011, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) raised the issue of reexamining the countermeasures against BSE, and submitted this request to the Food Safety Commission on December 9, 2011. 

We regard this as a politically motivated decision that only serves to accept expanded imports of beef products from the United States. We find this to be premature and strongly urge the Japanese government to withdraw its reexamination process, for the following reasons: 

1) Japan introduced countermeasures against BSE in 2001, implementing a strict system to safeguard against this terrible disease. 

Japan’s domestic system includes the testing of all cattle and a traceability system that identifies each cow, as well as the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) after slaughter, in addition to feed regulation. This is a system that serves as a global model for countermeasures against BSE and its importance has not been diminished. 

However, during the time of the reelection campaign of president George W. Bush in 2005, Japan agreed to change its strict rules so that beef products from cattle aged 20 months or younger could be imported from the US based on a simplified BSE countermeasure system. This concession followed intense US pressure on Japan’s government. 

Even so, careful testing of each and every cow has continued domestically here in Japan in order to protect consumers. 

2) As part of the proposed new countermeasures against BSE, the age limit will be raised to 30 months, and it will thus become unnecessary to test any cows that are younger than 30 months. However, there is no scientific basis for changing the age limit for BSE inspection from 20 months to 30 months. 

In fact, we regard this as a purely political decision as Japan attempts to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations. It is simply a concession to US domestic standards that has set the age limit arbitrarily at 30 months for its own cattle testing program. It would mean that 90% of US beef products, rather than 20% today, will become eligible for export to Japan. 

Japan made this concession to remove what trade negotiators call a “non-tariff barrier” to US president Obama as he tries to get reelected for a second term, and needs the support of and contribution for his electoral campaign from the powerful US beef industry. This also helped Japan get the US to accept that it would be allowed to participate in the TPP negotiations. 

3) While BSE infection rates have decreased around the world, there is no evidence that the US system to combat the disease has had any such effect.  

Moreover, questions have still not been answered regarding the spreading of the disease, the cause of development of symptoms of BSE, and the issue of prions inside the bodies of cows. 

In order to completely eradicate BSE from the world, it is indispensable that research based on Japan’s system that tests all cows should be implemented in all countries, and that data collection should be further expanded. 

Since there have been 15 confirmed cases of US beef product export program violations with regards to Japan, it is also necessary to strictly verify the US compliance with countermeasures against BSE. 

4) We are concerned that if non-tariff barriers are further deliberated in the TPP negotiation process, we will end up with a similar situation that South Korea is now facing as part of its free trade agreement with the US. This system explicitly makes it impossible for a country to stop imports of beef products from a country even if BSE should occur in the exporting country (This is also known as the “ratchet effect” and implies that any new liberalization measures would be “locked in” so they cannot be rescinded or nullified over time, for example by improved consumer protection legislation). Such deregulation is unacceptable to consumers in Japan.

Additionally, we are strongly opposed to having the rules and standards of OIE (Office International des Epizooties) as mandatory provisions that override Japan’s food safety measures that are based on the precautionary principle. We regard this as a serious and unacceptable affront to Japan’s sovereignty. 

Food Safety Citizen’s Watch

Kamiyama Michiko

Consumers Union of Japan

Amagasa Keisuke, Koga Mako, Mashimo Toshi & Yamaura Yasuaki

Consumers Against TPP Negotiations

TPP: Rural Japan Under Serious Threat By “Operation Enemy”

November 02, 2011
 
The TPP negotiations seem to be hi-jacked by American rice growers and large grain exporting corporations. This is in spite of the fact that liberalization of the rice sector would have devastating effects on rural Japan. We cannot understand why the Japanese government should allow one small group of American producers to effectively make it impossible for Japan as a whole to maintain its food sovereignty. Consumers Union of Japan strongly rejects such approach to trade liberalization, and we, the consumers, have concluded that we have every reason to oppose the TPP negotiations. We think this will create a world where the law of the jungle prevails.
 
Half a year ago, American soldiers came to Tohoku to help the people there recover from the massive earthquake and tsunami. This was called “Operation Tomodachi” and while the word “tomodachi” means “friend” it seems the US Trade Representative represents the “enemy” of the same farmers and fishermen in rural Japan that appreciated the support for Tohoku!
 
Farming is the backbone of all activities in rural areas, from Okinawa in the south to Hokkaido in the north. Most rice farmers grow rice in the summer and wheat in winter. Both crops would be competing with cheap imports if tariffs are eliminated through “Operation Enemy.” Also, Japanese farmers are properly covered by health insurance and pension systems. This cannot be compared to areas in the United States with a large influx of illegal immigrants that work for large landowners at minimum wage conditions.
 
To abruptly engage in TPP negotiations is not acceptable for consumers. TPP is not only going to harm Japan’s agricultural sector, but ruin the entire economy in rural areas. This also leads to destruction of the natural environment and food safety concerns. In particular, Consumers Union of Japan is concerned about pressure to change the rules to combat BSE and the mandatory labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Structural reform of agriculture, allowing large-scale corporations to run farms, will be the end of small-scale farming. Such policies are now promoted by the Democratic Party of Japan, in spite of their 2009 election manifest, in which they promised to attach special importance to farmers. Instead, small-scale farming should be seen as the model for others around the world to follow, as it requires less reliance on fossil fuels and promotes biological diversity.
 
We cannot help but ask if it really is the intention of a small lobby group, the US rice farmers, to cause such terrible distress to millions of people in rural Japan.
 
Yasuaki Yamaura, CUJ

Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement

By Yamaura Yasuaki, Consumers Union of Japan

In October 2010, Prime Minister Kan suddenly declared in a policy speech to the Parliament that Japan would participate in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). There is strong opposition coming not only from farmer’s organizations and local authorities, but also among elected politicians within Prime Minister Kan’s own party, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), who have risen up in anger and anxiety. The main arguments against the TPP include that fact that TPP will make it impossible to gain any exceptions from Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that will force Japan to abolish tariffs, which will be a fatal blow to Japanese agriculture and lead to a decline for the economy in rural areas.

Mass media, however, developed a chorus of “don’t miss this opportunity” and not only the economic press, such as Nihon Keizai Shimbun and The Sankei Shimbun, but also The Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun all support TPP in editorials and articles, even going so far as to misinterpret and make false representations of how TPP will “open up the country to the world” and calling the “agricultural protection theory bigoted and obstinate.”

Consumers Union of Japan submitted a letter of protest on November 12, 2010 telling the government that we oppose trade liberalization, either in the form of FTA or TPP. CUJ also noted that there is no national consensus regarding this and that to abruptly engage in such negotiations is not acceptable for consumers.

TPP is not only going to harm Japan’s agricultural sector, but ruin the entire economy in rural areas. This also leads to destruction of the natural environment. The only survivors will be the export-oriented industry. It means a decline for the domestic industry which will affect workers greatly. Structural reform of agriculture, allowing large-scale corporations to run farms, will be the end of small-scale farming. Such policies are now promoted by the Democratic Party of Japan, in spite of their 2009 election manifest, in which they promised to attach special importance to farmers.

We are particularly concerned about what this means for food safety and food security. Japan’s food self sufficiency rate, which is already low, will be further undermined. The United States, which will be a part of TPP, officially considers Japan’s food legislation as a “non-tariff barrier” and lists their concerns each year in the USTR report on trade barriers in foreign countries including Japan. Their goal is to abolish Japanese rules, for example regarding genetically modified organisms (GMO) and beef products, that they regard as one-sided.

Consumers Union of Japan is holding two meetings in February to discuss these issues and what they mean for consumers.

On February 16, 2011 we are holding a meeting in Conference Room B 109 at the Members’ Office Building of House of Councilors of Japan:
Address: 2-1-1 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Title: Questions about the problems of TPP

On February 26, 2011 we are holding a symposium in Hall 1021, Meiji University Liberty Tower:
Address: Kanda, Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Title: Globalization through TPP will bring poverty: Living naturally in both towns and cities!

Read more: Why Are Consumers Opposing TPP?