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?