Farmers rally against TPP

03/03/2013
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Although Japan has not yet made a decision on whether it will join the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a recent announcement by Prime Minister Abe that he is seriously considering joining talks as a prelude to possible membership to the free trade bloc has sent shock waves through some parts of Japan, chiefly the protected agricultural sector.

TOKYO (majirox news) — Japanese farmers whose jobs are threatened by the country’s membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, known as TPP, demonstrated in Tokyo. It followed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement that he would seriously consider joining talks on the trade pact.

“When the prime minister campaigned he promised the Japanese that he would only enter TPP negotiations if certain sectors were declared off the table,” said Satoshi Inoue, a member of the Diet. “Now the ruling party said they will leave it to Abe to make the decision on whether to join TPP. But the Japanese people will not leave it to him.”

Japan’s farmers are heavily protected by import tariffs of more than 750 percent on rice, and over 250 percent on wheat, Japan’s agriculture lobby sees its members’ livelihoods eroded by imports of cheap grain if Japan joins the pact.

Hiro Tanaka, a farmer, said, “I am from Iwate prefecture. Once TPP opens up, 100 percent of our rice growers will lose their jobs and our dairy businesses will be destroyed.”

Abe has claimed, following recent discussions with United States President Barack Obama, that he now understands that joining the TPP does not automatically mean an end to all tariffs on all goods

Diet Member Tomoko Tamura said, “I believe it will end tariffs on all imported foreign products. It will also destroy Japan’s medical insurance system and raise the price of medicine, which are now regulated by the government. It will be the US and other countries setting the market price.”

Junichi Shiraishi, Chairman of Japan’s Family Farmers Movement, said, “It will hurt the economy. That is because local economies depend on agriculture and fishing, but if these industries are destroyed through the TPP, it will eliminate entire communities in various regions.”

There are also fears that Japan will be forced to accept unwelcome imports, such as genetically modified foods and unwanted pricing structures, such as pharmaceuticals.

Abe said he will make a decision very soon on whether or not Japan will take part in these talks. But Observers say, “both sides will have to a little if there is any hope of making it happen.”

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