【TPP jp-news】Farmers Assembly with 1,200 farmers

The followings are abridged translation of four articles in The Japan Agricultural News of its March 14 edition sent from Sharon Treat. The newspaper is daily publication by one of six Federations of Agricultural Cooperatives which forms a group of National Federations all established by primary member cooperatives.
The numbers added to the articles in Japanese coincide with those of English translation, so that you can identify them each other.(Translated by Kondo(People’s Action against TPP))

A series of anti-TPP action took place with invited overseas guests in a great success.
Before going into translation, I would like to give a brief introduction to a series of anti-TPP events which took place in Japan. As mentioned above, the articles appeared in 14 March edition. With attendance by Jane Kelsey, Lori Wallach, Peter Maybarduc, Russel Norman (Co-Leader of the Green Party of NZ), KWON Yoeung-gil (a Korean legislator of the main opposition party), SONG Ki-ho (a Korean attorney and a writer of a TPP handbook) and JOO Je-jun (an activist and a leader of anti-Korea/US FTA movement), a series of anti-TPP assemblies and rallies took place from 9 March through 13 March in a great success.

Three big events were organized on 13 March.
Among all these days, 13 March, the previous day of the newspaper edition was a day filled with various anti-TPP events. One was organized by the National Conference to Consider the TPP under some lawmakers’ leadership, the second was organized by Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and the third was organized by People’s Action against TPP and other civil groups. Most of the overseas guests attended the first and the third ones. And interesting to say, some large scale consumer’s cooperative unions attended all the three.

More joint action being planned prior to Prime Minister’s visit to the US.
I would like to add that on the morning of 14 March, we, some core members of People’s Action against TPP gathered and decided to appeal to other main groups engaged in anti-TPP activities to have a meeting early in April and to organize a joint action prior to Prime Minister Noda’s visit to the US expected at the end of April or in the beginning of May.

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<1-1>Farmers Assembly with 1,200 participating farmers from all over urged all the political parties to act against TPP.
The assembly was organized by Central Union of Agricultural Cooperative together with the “Network to Protect Food, Livelihood and Life” consisting of Agricultural Cooperatives, Consumer’s Cooperatives and some national level vocational organizations.
In the Assembly, Mr. Banzai, the Chairman of the Central Union criticized that the government is already trying a trade-off negotiation and it is a tricky act of treason against the Japanese nation. He urged invited political party representatives, and appealed that every rural community is full of uneasiness and dissatisfaction about the present course of the politics, and all the political parties should clearly show their official standpoints on TPP to the public.
Mr. Hida, the Vice Chairman of the Central Union proposed the petition to the Noda Administration that the government should establish a concrete and unified course of action in the prior consultation with P4 countries, should guarantee the disclosure of sufficient and accurate information, should assure thoroughgoing nationwide discussion among the Japanese nation in a fair and equal manner, and should express the basis of decision in accordance with national interest whether to enter the negotiation.
Mr. Muta, the leader of the Young Farmers Association appealed that restoration in all the catastrophe stricken areas, the main primary industrial areas must be prioritized and that all the participants present should stand to stop the TPP in a joint action.
The assembly was followed by a panel discussion with invited guests chaired by Professor Suzuki, a leading figure in anti-TPP movements. The representative of New Komeito, a coalition member of the ex-administration only said that opinions in the party is split and basis of decision is yet under discussion. The representative from Liberal Democratic Party, the ex-ruling party said he is against the entry to TPP negotiation as far as the government stick to the idea to place every issue on the negotiation table without exception. The representatives from Social Democratic Party and Japanese Communist Party were also present.

<1-2>Reality of ISDS (Final edition of a serial reports): Possible restriction on environment protection worried about even in the US.
The US government seeks for rules favorable to USA to create job opportunities. But, the deep-seated opposition against extreme free trade which only serves corporate benefits is seen even in the US. We can find an example in the state of Maine. Many residents there are opposing pumping up of groundwater by a multinational mineral water company. People are worried about possible restriction on their right to preserve natural resources of the community, once ISDS takes effect. The citizen’s committee on trade policy of the state is the only opposition at the public hearing on TPP held by the Federal Government. The committee is not only against Japan’s participation but cautious about the TPP itself. They say TPP will restrict the regulatory right of the state government and the dispute settlement procedure in TPP may seriously hit the state. Therefore, they sense imminent danger of ISDS.
On the other hand, citizens worried about shortage of water by global warming are cautious about appropriation of water by a private corporation. There are five leading civil groups supported by fifteen groups. In 2008 when the multinational planned to expand its operation, the local referendum stopped it with 80% against the plan. And in 2009, two local governments passed local ordinances giving authority to restrict digging for groundwater. Sharon Treat, a state legislator and a member of the committee points out that ISDS would reverse the regulation of the local governments. Chris, the leader of an association to protect life supporting water resources also points out that development of FTA with EU and Switzerland, and expansion of TPP participating countries will spread use of ISDS and thus endanger regional resources.
In response to these progresses, the multinational is trying to roll back. They recognize it will be difficult to use ISDS because of their nationality and now try to pressure the state governor and legislature to enact a state regulation which enables them to demand compensation when their operation is restricted by local governments.
Chris is expressing his wariness that it is a domestic version of ISDS. Corporations already sued some state governments for compensation of tens of billions of US Dollars. Chris emphasized that lobbying and pressures of those corporations with financial power are totally different from citize’s wish asking for the rearing of sustainable agriculture and manufacturing industry.

2-1.Interview with the Maine State Legislators, Sherman, Treat and Lotando (spelling unknown): Interviewed by Hirofumi SENBONGI.
Question: What are activities of the citizen’s committee for trade policy like?
Sherman: Free trade has both positive aspects and negative aspects. We hold the regular meeting every month, discuss the impact of the TPP and Korea/US FTA to citizens of the state of Maine and report to the public.
Treat: Among other clauses, ISDS is likely to restrict the sovereignty of local governments. A private company can sue the federal government for abolition of regulations which protects local resources such as groundwater and for damage compensation including potential future profit. It will also be a problem that it is difficult to foresee the settlement which is subject to arbitrators even if the cases are the same. If not actually sued, the legislature may quail.
Lotando:A Canadian mining company sued the US federal government using ISDS of NAFTA and complained to the state of California of the restriction of opencast mining. It obviously tells that a trade agreement may make it difficult to preserve ground water.
Why do we need such an international arbitration system, while we have our own legal system in the US? The important is that the state government and local community have the right to decide its own policy.
Question: Why are you critical on the TPP?
Treat:Corporations want to unify standards for environment and food safety of member countries in TPP Agreement. The state of Maine exports sea urchin to Japan and we are required to keep the sea water clean and preserve sea urchin. Such a reality peculiar to the region must carefully be considered. Secret negotiations are also a problem which hides possible impacts to our daily life. Even the state government cannot read the text till all the negotiations are complete. USTR keeps close dialogue with corporate representatives, but hardly has opportunities to listen to the state government. Therefore, we demand slowdown of the negotiation, release of information to the public and equal opportunities for stakeholders to express opinions.
Question: What about the Korea/US FTA to which you are also cautious?
Treat:We can share the concern of Korean people. The US demanded transparency in the process of pricing medicines in Korea. If such a system beneficial to pharmaceutical companies is adopted not only in Korea but in the US, citizen’s right of access to medicines may be endangered.
Lotando:The democratic process of FTA negotiations is important, so that we may evaluate the impact to our daily life. And it is also indispensable that the government make efforts to explain the complicated clauses easily understood by as many citizens as possible.

2-2. Wide range negative impact revealed at the professional meeting organized by the National Conference to Consider the TPP
The international meeting was held at the Member’s Hall of the House of Representatives with professionals and legislators from Japan, Korea, the US and New Zealand present. They discussed wide range issues such as food safety, medical issues, mutual aid services, and made it clear that the TPP is not only about tariff demolition but its essence is to press domestic regulations to be changed so as to maximize the corporate interests.
With respect to food safety issue, Ms. Lori Wallach, Director of Global Trade Watch of Public Citizen explained that scientific proof would be required if domestic safety standards are stricter than international ones adopted and that TPP member countries couldn’t adopt precautious standards. And she emphasized that many poisons were served at the TPP negotiation table and Japan should not be seated there.
In the field of medical issues, Mr. Peter Maybarduc, Director of Global Access to Medicines Programs pointed out that the main purpose of TPP was to adopt a for profit system into health care and that the leaked text obviously told that pharmaceutical companies wanted to have official seats in the pricing system of medicines. Professor Kelsey from New Zealand suggested that insurance companies want private insurance to be treated in the same manner as the public health insurance system, and criticized that health care matters should not be discussed at the trade negotiation table.
Mr. Tanabe, General Manager of Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Cooperative Union showed his concern that the mutual aid service of cooperatives would be treated the same way as private insurance which Korea/US FTA had shown. Mr. Russel Norman, a Parliament Member and a co-leader of the Green Party of New Zealand said that TPP negotiation regards favorable treatment for cooperatives as questionable.
The professional meeting took place as a part of the series of various events which had started on the previous day. And there attended some 350 audiences.