Category Archives: FTA

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?

Yokohama APEC People’s Declaration

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an economic forum promoting the liberalization and facilitation of trade and investments, economic and technical cooperation, and related issues. Many NGOs from Japan and other coutries participated in the No! APEC Yokohama People’s Forum.

Yokohama People’s Declaration (Summary)

November 14,2010

The No! APEC Yokohama People’s Forum gathered on November 13-14, 2010 in Yokohama, Japan to protest against the APEC meeting held in the city. The executive committee consists of various individuals, citizens, workers, labour unions, civic groups, NGOs, and gender groups who oppose the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), issuing the following joint declaration:

The official Yokohama Vision presented at the APEC meeting has three pillars: regional economic integration, growth strategies, and secure communities. It boasts of the high economic growth in the Asia-Pacific Ocean nations, clinging to the myth of future economic growth. The content related to secure communities appears to despise the real security of citizens, instead valuing security of capital. We oppose the APEC Yokohama Vision, because it does not at all reflect the voice of the general public.

The following is a summary of the issues we discussed in great detail in subcommittee meetings. Consequently, the views were confirmed by all of the participants in the No! APEC Yokohama People’s Forum. Continue reading Yokohama APEC People’s Declaration

Why Are Consumers Opposing TPP?

The Problems of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement

Yamaura Yasuaki
Secretary General of Consumers Union of Japan
November 3, 2010

(1) The Problems of FTA/EPA

Currently, the participation in TPP is a very large political issue for Japan. We regard TPP as simply a part of the Free Trade Agreements (FTA) that have come into effect since May, 2006. The ideal way forward for FTAs is what must be discussed prior to any decision about whether joining TPP is the right path for Japan or not.

Though the government notes that they regard the WTO rules as the basis of Japan’s trading policies, in fact, they negotiated Free Trade Agreements and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with 12 nations since the first agreement with Singapore in 2002. Moreover, they consider FTA/EPA to be important in the new growth strategy, which attempts structural reform, as well as economic restoration nationwide.

The problem of FTA/EPA is that it provides discriminative trading rules. This is fundamentally based on economism (the reduction of all social facts to economical dimensions) carried out by the powerful nations, reflecting the gaps of power of the countries concerned. We think this will create a world where the law of the jungle prevails. It is quite different from what WTO is promising in terms of rule-based trade, a multilateral trading system such as the most-favoured-nation (MFN) status and national treatment, with considerations for diversified global trade.

(2) Direction of the New-growth Strategy

The current partner countries of FTA/EPA with Japan are as follows: Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, the entire ASEAN block, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, Switzerland, Mexico, and Chile. India was included in this queue as of October 25, 2010. So far, Japan has been avoiding deals with farm exporting nations. However, Japan is still negotiating with the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), South Korea, Peru and Australia. Australia is another huge farm exporting nation, and being partnered with Australia would mean having to deal with its TPP companion, especially the US, bringing hitherto unequaled effects upon Japanese agriculture.

Also, relying on the logics of export competition as a diplomatic policy means turning a blind eye to future troubles. The current FTA/EPA occurred so far in Japan only helped the strong, exporting-centered industries to survive, neglecting the small-medium sized enterprises. We are particularly concerned about the bad effect on Japan’s agricultural sector.

The Japanese government tells the farm lobby that it is considering some policies concerning agricultural matters, such as structural reform of the agricultural system, and drawing up policies to protect domestic agriculture. But it is quite impossible for any Japanese system to compete with the mega-sized farming systems in America and Australia.

(3) The problems of TPP

TPP is a regional FTA started by Singapore, New Zealand, Chile, and Brunei, the countries that signed the original FTA partnership. Its unique feature is the abolition of all tariffs without any exceptions. The aim is zero tariffs and deregulation not only for manufacturing industries or agriculture, forestry and fisheries, but also for postal insurance and the public service sectors.

After the November, 2009 APEC meeting in Singapore, it was declared that the US, Australia, Peru, Vietnam and Malaysia would start accession negotiations with the others and form the TPP. Clearly, the farm product exporting giants, the US and Australia, will have a large influence on the nine countries in the TPP block. Furthermore, Canada has also expressed interest in joining in the future. For Japan, this could result in a huge drop in the rate of food self-sufficiency from the current 40% to around 14%, according to government estimates, and an economic loss of 4.1 trillion yen for the entire country; specifically, estimates for Hokkaido indicates that the influence on local farm products could be losses up to 556.3 billion yen, which can be compared to the entire economy of Hokkaido, which is 2 trillion yen, if it has to compete with Australia and the US (Source: MAFF 2010).

(4) Why are consumers opposing TPP?

Consumers Union of Japan is opposed to deregulation of trade, and we have persistently protested against the WTO negotiations, FTA-AP, the FTA between Japan and Australia, Japan and South Korea, as well as Japan and the United States. We also oppose the TPP for the following reasons:

First of all, we note the negative results that FTA has brought. Examples include environmental destruction and the effect on wildlife as tropical forests have been cut down for palm oil production, and the worsening conditions for factory workers as developing countries race to increase exports at the lowest possible price. From many regions, there are also worrying reports of how people’s staple food production has been sacrificed as a result of export-oriented food production. Moreover, large investments and the expansion of financing has led to deprivation and increased debt problems in developing countries. Deregulation and free trade is also the main factor behind the collapse of the industrial order here in Japan, and we consider it directly responsible for deteriorating labour conditions.

In addition, we regard FTA as a cause of the further decrease in Japan’s food security and already low rate of food self-sufficiency and the impetus to the decline of our country’s agriculture. We also fear that food safety standards will be lowered as part of the mutual recognition system that will be put in place on the pretext of removing trade barriers as part of FTA/EPA.

Now, TPP has become a problem as well in the hegemony duel regarding the establishment of economic blocks in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan has had a focus on promoting good relations with APEC and the FTA-AP, while China has taken the initiative to a FTA with ASEAN+3. It seems obvious that the proposed TPP is an attempt by the US to counter the economic growth of China and gain influence in the region.

For consumers, it is crucial to strongly request an ideal way forward for fair trade between people around the world, rather than the narrow, hegemonistic free trade interests of large exporting countries.

Please contact:
NPO Consumers Union of Japan
Nishi-Waseda 1-9-19-207
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Japan

Tel: 03-5155-4765
Fax: 03-5155-4767
Email: yamaura (a t) nishoren.org

World Social Forum: Another World Is Possible

10 years have passed since the failed World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle. Soon after that, activists and experts, along with the many representatives of different non-governmental organizations that had participated in Seattle, both in the demonstrations and inside the conference halls, created the World Social Forum. This was an effort to change the debate from “anti-WTO” or “anti-globalization” to discuss how to create a way forward towards a more fair global order.

On Sunday, January 24, 2009, the forum meets in Tokyo under the theme of Another World is Possible. Yasuaki Yamaura from Consumers Union of Japan will participate as facilitator. Update: Read Yamaura-san’s report! Continue reading World Social Forum: Another World Is Possible

World Social Forum: Challenging The Economic Order

CUJ and other NGOs including Attac Japan, People’s Plan and Space Allies/Allies Law Office are preparing for the World Social Forum 2010 to be held on January 24, 2010 in Tokyo and on March 21, 2010 in Osaka.

world-social-forum-tokyo-2010-poster

Before that, on November 23, 2009, a meeting will be held to discuss how we can challenge Davos and the economic order promoted by global leaders, who created the current financial crisis. Speakers include Christophe Augiton from France and Chico Whitaker from Brazil.

It is the first time in 10 years we have an opportunity to invite two of the founders and main actors of the WSF movement. What is World Social Forum and what does it mean for you and your future? Come and participate on Monday, which is Labour Day holiday in Japan!

Date: November 23, 2009 Time: 13:30-16:30

Venue: Nambu Rosei Kaikan  (Ozaki Station)

Address: Gate City West Tower, Ozaki 1-11-1, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo

Charge: Y800

Tokyo Social Forum (Japanese website)

World Social Forum (International website)