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