Category Archives: TPP

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?

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