Tag 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.

Will Japan and the U.S. Align on TPP Provisions That Harm Japanese Creators?

copyright-trap-action-3Guest post over at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) about copyright issues and the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations – did Japan move closer to the US positions during the recent Maui talks in July, 2015? Martin J. Frid, with Jeremy Malcolm, formerly at Consumers International:

Japan’s entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will see a wide range of changes sweeping the economy and the community, in areas as diverse as food safety/food security, country of origin labeling rules, and copyright. As a staff member of Consumers Union of Japan, I am concerned about all of these issues—but I’m writing here about the copyright changes, which unlike in many other TPP countries have sparked national attention.

Copyright has been a sticking point for Japan in its trading relationship with the United States dating all the way back to 1945, when Japan was required to award the victors of the Second World War with 10 years of additional copyright protection. The U.S., Australia, and New Zealand are still benefiting from that even now, and Japan has asked for this to be rolled back in the TPP.

But the U.S. negotiators are demanding the opposite: like five other TPP countries, Japan is being asked to extend its copyright term by another 20 years, from life of the author plus 50 years as the Berne Convention requires, to life plus 70 years, and even longer for corporate-owned works. This is a proposal that Japan has considered repeatedly and rejected on the grounds that it would not benefit Japanese creators. Yet the U.S. will not take no for an answer.

In addition, Japan is being asked to adopt stricter copyright enforcement rules, including sky-high statutory damages awards, and the ability for police to take criminal action against alleged copyright infringers, even if the copyright owner does not file a complaint.

Japanese Creative Sector Speaks Out

The Japan Playwrights Association, the Japan Theatrical Producers Association, and the Japan Theatre Arts Association jointly issued an appeal, opposing the Japanese government’s participation in the TPP negotiations. Their appeal expresses strong concern that controversial issues on intellectual property rights are negotiated without any prior public debate in Japan.

Read the rest at EFF

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

G8 Action Network Meeting

International Preparation Meeting about the Lake Toyako G8 Summit

8 March, 2008 in Tokyo

Kurihara Yasushi from the Executive Office asked everyone to give their views and opinions regarding the G8.

The G8 Action Network is an open network composed of individuals and organizations who are questioning the G8 Summit itself. The Network is constructing a framework for exchange of information, designed to support many events and activities against the Summit.

Nations joining the G8 account for only 14% of the world’s population. Also, the G8 Summit is an informal meeting that does not comply with the procedures as requested by international laws. However, what is agreed there defines the movement of the world. For these reasons, we consider the G8 Summit undemocratic.

It was also pointed out that the policies carried out by the G8 are based on neo-liberalism. This is a world view holding that free trade or market liberalization could maximize profits and benefits for people. Neo-liberal proposals by the G8 have brought about many problems around the world to date.

Ogura Toshimaru from People’s Plan Study Group made a presentation about Japan’s government and its G8 activities at Lake Toyako in Hokkaido. He noted that Japan has selected global climate change and environmental problems as principal subjects for the meeting. At the same time, the government has been pushing hard to maintain the road taxes, a revenue source that continues the usual destruction of the environment. In this way, it is clearly putting forward a deceptive proposition for the G8 Summit.

Shimozawa Takashi from JANIC made a presentation about the G8 Summit NGO Forum. Even though environmental issues are at the center, he pointed out that so far, 114 NGOs are participating in the NGO Forum, which was started in January 2007. They have divided their activities into three groups: environment, poverty and human rights. It is their goal to respond to each official communique and have regular meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also intend to participate in the April, 2008 Sherpa meeting to explain the opinions of the NGOs. There will also be a Tanabata Campaign from April to July, as well as an alternative summit in Hokkaido immediately before the G8 Summit.

Yamaura Yasuaki from Consumers Union of Japan discussed the following points:

1) The G8 has deteriorated problems such as poverty and debt through international institutions including IMF, World Bank, or WTO, in addition to FTA and EPA agreements.

2) The G8 has consistently favoured big agribusiness firms. This is not only breaking the very foundation of small-scale farmers life around the world, but also expanding production of genetically modified crops or animals.

3) The G8 has pushed ahead with deregulations, such as the privatization of public services of rail, mail or medical care. In addition, liberalization of capital investment or finance has led to chaos such as the currency crisis in Asia or the subprime loan scandal.

4) The G8 has produced instability of labour, by relaxing the standards of labour laws.

5) The G8 has put priority on corporate activities and paid no attention to environmental destruction. The G8 policy on climate change will inevitably raise new problems including acceleration of more risky or speculative carbon trading or promotion of nuclear energy.

6) The G8 countries, who formerly built colonies in many regions, bear the responsibility for numerous wars or armed conflicts, and they are major weapons exporting states as well as nuclear-weapon states.

7) In the name of terrorism, the G8 has deprived life and freedom of people and violated human rights by mobilizing domestic or overseas police and military forces, such as in Afghanistan and and Iraq.

8) The G8 never discusses gender issues, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, or socially excluded people.

Please see the G8 Action Network website for news and updates:

http://www.jca.apc.org/alt-g8/

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Official website for the G8 Summit:

http://g8-summit.town.toyako.hokkaido.jp/eng/index.html