Tag Archives: Trade

Event: Petition Campaign for Better Labelling of Genetically Modified Food

Consumers Union of Japan, the No! GMO Campaign and Food Safety Citizen’s Watch will hold an event in the Japanese Parliament to present the results so far of our petition campaign to collect signatures for better labelling of genetically modified food. The event will be an opportunity to discuss GM food in light of the new realities presented by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that may soon be signed by 12 countries, including Japan. The TPP agreement also deals with cross-border trade barriers, and could mean that other countries or corporations may challenge Japan’s food labelling laws.

Since August, 2015 a large number of consumers have signed our petition to improve the mandatory GM labelling laws from 2000 to include all GM foods, and to lower the limit at which foods with GM ingredients must be labelled, which is currently 5% (for example, the limit in the European Union is 0.9%). We are strongly urging the Minister for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety to instruct the Consumer Agency to push for improved labelling of all GM foods in Japan, based on the fundamental principles of the consumers’ right to know and right to choose.

Date: January 27, 2016
Time: 13:30-15-30
Location: House of Representatives (Shugiin) 2nd Bldg. Hall 1, Nagatacho, Tokyo

Consumers Union of Japan Strongly Opposes the TPP Agreement

Consumers Union of Japan strongly opposes the TPP agreement as a whole, which we regard as a threat to our rights, and calls for a movement to prevent Japan from participating in the TPP

October 5, 2015
Consumers Union of Japan

On October 5, 2015, the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations were concluded at a ministerial round in the US city of Atlanta. Thus the TPP has reached a new stage. These complex negotiations still have contradictions and need further legal adjustments before countries can ratify the agreement and enact it into national legislation. The debates and deliberations will now also begin in earnest in the parliaments of each member country.

“From the standpoint of consumers and producers, it is clear that Japan’s automobile industry and auto part makers won a big victory over other interests, especially the nation’s farmers and agricultural lobby. The stark-naked truth is that farmers will face a TPP agreement that completely fails to live up to the many promises made to them. Instead, the interests of large corporation and big capital took top priority, while ordinary people and their living conditions are under threat,” says Ono Kazuoki, co-chair of Consumers Union of Japan.

Back in 2012, when the Liberal Democratic Party was in opposition, its position was against TPP. LDP made promises to oppose participation in the negotiations as long as they were premised on tariff abolition without sanctuary, especially for agriculture. Other conditions included the rejection of numerical targets for cars and the investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause, as well as protection of food safety standards and Japan’s universal healthcare system. LDP even printed election posters that the party “does not lie” and that they opposed TPP, which they put up all over Japan. CUJ’s Ono Kazuaki notes: “For example, in April, 2013, both Houses of Japan’s parliament agreed that tariffs on rice, pork and beef, wheat, barley and sugarcane should not be affected by TPP. These promises and parliamentary resolutions have now largely been broken by the outcomes of the TPP negotiations.”

There is strong opposition and a movement of people against TPP not only in Japan but in many countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand. This is truly a growing international movement. More and more people realize that their right to safe food is being disregarded, while their access to medicines will be more restricted by higher costs and patent rules. For family farmers and small-scale agriculture, the onslaught of imported goods will make their survival impossible. “Consumers Union of Japan will now step up its campaign against TPP both domestically and internationally. We will cooperate with the civic movement and protest against the TPP from the point of view of consumers and citizens,” says Ono Kazuoki.

We strongly urge the Japanese government to exit the TPP agreement unless the following conditions are met: admit that it violates the pledges made to the Japanese people, and start new negotiations between the participating countries with a clean slate.

(END)

Contact:
Consumers Union of Japan
Address: Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207 Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, Japan (169-0051)
E-mail: office.w@nishoren.org
Fax: +81-(0)3-5155-4767

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

Op-Ed Against TPP by Ralph Nader and Koa Tasaka (Asahi Shimbun)

We got the following op-ed published in Japan’s Asahi Shimbun this week, co-signed by Ralph Nader from Public Citizen and Koa Tasaka from Consumers Union of Japan. It was written in response to a column that made unsubstantiated claims about TPP and consumers.

In its September 08, 2014 editorial, Asahi Shimbun argued that “Japan, U.S. should consider consumers, not industries, in reaching TPP deal.”
As consumer movement leaders in the U.S. and Japan, we agree that it is crucial that both countries prioritize consumer interests. However, we strongly disagree with the editorial’s unsupported assumption that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as it is currently being negotiated would benefit consumers.
What is important to consumers? Healthy and safe food. Banking and insurance services that protect their financial well-being. Affordable medicines and health care. Access to an open Internet and privacy protections. A clean environment.
From what we know about the TPP text, it would undermine these critical consumer priorities, not promote them.
Consider who has had the greatest influence on the TPP. Almost all of the 500 official U.S. private sector trade “advisors” represent corporate interests. While agribusiness, Wall Street, and pharmaceutical interests have had special access to the process and negotiating text, representatives from consumer, health, and other public interest organizations have been left in the dark. Even members of the U.S. Congress cannot easily access the draft text. Similarly in Japan, elected members of the Parliament are unable to provide any constructive input to the negotiations.
Due to the extreme secrecy of the negotiations, it is impossible to know everything damaging to consumers that may be included in the TPP text. However, leaked draft texts of some of the chapters have confirmed that the TPP rules would benefit large multinational corporations at the expense of consumers.
The leak of the TPP’s environmental chapter shows that the U.S., which is not a party to United Nation conventions such as the Climate Change Convention or the Biological Diversity Convention, will do everything it can to use TPP to continue to avoid rules suggested by the international community.
Also, a leak of the TPP’s investment chapter indicates that it will include Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), a controversial system that grants foreign investors the right to sue governments in extrajudicial tribunals to demand taxpayer compensation for domestic policies or government actions that may diminish the investors’ future “expected profits.” This brazen infringement of national sovereignty has been used under NAFTA and other treaties by corporations to attack toxics bans, nuclear energy phase-outs, tobacco regulation, unsafe food import bans, financial stability measures, water and timber policies, mining safety rules, fracking bans, and more. The cases are heard by three private-sector lawyers, many of whom are in a conflict of interest as they rotate between serving as “judges” and suing governments for corporations. These cases cannot be appealed and there is no limit on what the tribunals can order governments to pay. This is corporate supremacy run amuck.
Under U.S. trade agreements alone, governments have been ordered to pay more than $430 million in compensation to corporations – with $38 billion more in claims now pending. And in some cases governments have also eliminated important consumer safeguards to avoid paying more. Or, to avoid threatened challenges, governments have been “chilled” from taking action, such as after R.J. Reynolds threatened Canada when it was considering stronger tobacco regulation. ISDS is not the only anti-consumer aspect of the TPP.
As well, a leaked draft of the Intellectual Property chapter revealed that TPP would expand the scope of medicine patents and strengthen drug monopolies, increasing the consumer price of crucial drugs. The TPP would also require countries to allow the importation of food that does not meet domestic safety standards. Under the Sanitary and Phytosanitary chapter, food labels providing important information for consumers could be challenged as a trade barrier, including labels for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This is completely unacceptable in Japan, where we are asking for better protection of biological diversity, and Japan’s mandatory labeling rules should be improved, not challenged.
Despite the lessons learned from the global financial crisis, the TPP’s Financial Services chapter would limit our governments’ ability to regulate to preserve financial stability and protect consumers’ hard-earned savings. Draconian copyright provisions pushed by Hollywood could jeopardize consumers’ access to information on the Internet.
These are just a few examples of crucial consumer policies that could be jeopardized by the TPP in its current corporate dominated form.
So, yes, the U.S. and Japan have an obligation to protect consumer interests within an open democratic process. However, the TPP negotiations are achieving the opposite, posing a dire threat to consumer protection and the public interest. That is why many of the largest consumer organizations in the U.S. and Japan are vehemently opposed to the TPP’s dictatorial impacts.

Ralph Nader, Public Citizen
Koa Tasaka, Consumers Union of Japan

October 23, 2014 (私の視点)TPP 消費者への深刻な脅威だ ラルフ・ネーダー、田坂興亜

朝日新聞は、英文サイトに掲載した9月8日付の社説(本紙は7日付朝刊)で、TPP(環太平洋経済連携協定)は消費者にメリットをもたらすという前提でTPPに賛同するような姿勢を示したが、日米両国の消費者運動の主導的立場にあるものとしてTPPが内包する問題を提起したい。

WikiLeaks Releases Secret Information About TPP Environment Chapter

WikiLeaks has done it again – made available important documents that governments and corporate interests have tried to keep secret from the general public. Until this new release, we had almost no idea what was going on within the secret Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations involving an extraordinarily diverse group of 12 large and small as well as rich and poor nations of East and Southeast Asia, Australasia, and North and South America. The twelve are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, with the US driving the agenda. South Korea and Taiwan have also indicated that they may want to join. (…)

This time, we get a glimpse of the status of the Environment Chapter with important implications for the people and nature of the region.

Please read more at Japan Focus: WikiLeaks and the Release of the Environment Report

More details at the WikiLeaks website

“The Environment Chapter has long been sought by journalists and environmental groups. The released text dates from the Chief Negotiators’ summit in Salt Lake City, Utah, on 19-24 November 2013.

The Environment Chapter covers what the Parties propose to be their positions on: environmental issues, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services. It also outlines how to resolve enviromental disputes arising out of the treaty’s subsequent implementation. The draft Consolidated Text was prepared by the Chairs of the Environment Working Group, at the request of TPP Ministers at the Brunei round of the negotiations.

When compared against other TPP chapters, the Environment Chapter is noteworthy for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures. The dispute settlement mechanisms it creates are cooperative instead of binding; there are no required penalties and no proposed criminal sanctions. With the exception of fisheries, trade in ‘environmental’ goods and the disputed inclusion of other multilateral agreements, the Chapter appears to function as a public relations exercise.”