Brief information on TPP in Japan #27

31 Aug, 2012
By Kondo

Brief information on TPP in Japan #27 Prime Minister Noda hasn’t yet unified his ruling party DPJ and gave up announcement of Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation for the time being, while ASEAN and the enlarged meeting of Economic Ministers agreed on inauguration of ASEAN Economic Community and signing ASEAN + 6 both in 2015.

<Clippings from The Nikkei Newspaper>
1、Aug. 23 edition:

The project team of the ruling DPJ to propose not to accept tariff abolition without exception. They held its general meeting and decided to propose to the party that Japan cannot but table all the goods and services in the negotiation, but won’t accept tariff abolition without exception.

2、 Aug. 27 edition:
ASEAN Economic Ministers’ Meeting opened on 27 Shiem Reap, Cambodia to discuss the regional FTA. The enlarged meeting including other neighboring countries will follow on 30 Aug.ASEAN is to start ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 and they are going to discuss expansion of regional distribution infrastructure, common customs procedure, promotion of free trade in goods and services and liberalization of investment, and etc. They also will discuss ASEAN+6 in order to officially announce the start of negotiation at the East Asia Summit in November. It is expected that despite territorial dispute, Japan, China and Korea will join the meeting.

3、Aug. 29 edition:
A. PM Noda is likely to pass up the opportunity to announce Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation at Sept. APEC Summit. He met with some members of the ruling DPJ on 28 Aug. night and said that it would be difficult to announce before the US presidential election. He also seems to have judged that the timing would not cooperate considering deep-seated opposition in his party in addition to farm and medical sectors. The Chief Cabinet Secretary, Fujimura also expresseded the same comment at the press conference. He added that prior consultation with some countries didn’t get close to conclusion and the government did not set certain time limit to make final decision.

B. Dark clouds may affect the ASEAN ministerial meeting on regional FTA of ASEAN + 6, RCEP The dark clouds are territorial disputes between Japan and China, Japan and Korea, the Philippines and China, and Vietnam and China. In addition, difference of standpoints on liberalization will be a tough hurdle. Some countries, Indonesia and India in particular suffer from trade deficit with China with exception of Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, and oppose high standards free trade FTA. India who has a big market is cautious about opening its retail and distribution sectors to foreign capitals, and ASEAN countries voiced their demand of more market access to India at Aug.28 meeting. Cooperation and compromise in the region will be challenged. The meeting is an inter-session and they will discuss the framework of the official negotiation such as whether to include IP, competition policy and other non-trade issues in the negotiation, how to set up exceptions for the less developed countries and such. The chair person, Cambodian Minister of Commerce Mr. Cham Prasith said in an interview that necessary negotiation to inaugurate the ASEAN Economic Community would proceed, and free trade would be advanced through common trade procedures and customs clearance, and electronic systems among ASEAN members. With respect to RCEP, he said that sectional meetings of issue experts for trade, services and investment had already started, and scope of fields to be liberalized was under discussion. He emphasized that unlike the US led TPP, ASEAN Framework of RCEP would be an Asian led FTA to satisfy demand of Asian countries.

4、 Aug. 30 and 31 edition:
The enlarged meeting of Economic Ministers from ASEAN, Japan, China, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand agreed on ASEAN Framework for Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership to be closed in 2015. The start of official negotiation will be declared at the East Asia Summit in November. The 16 country FTA will be a comprehensive agreement not only on tariff abolition but also IP protection, trade in services, investment and etc. But exceptions for less developed countries and other concerns shall be considered in the process of negotiation. Despite concerns about territorial disputes in East and South China Sea, Korean representative mentioned that economic issues should be separate from political issues. And Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Anand SHARMA said that despite huge trade deficit with China, India would be engaged in RCEP negotiation.

<Anti-TPP activities update.>
An assembly to stop PM Noda’s possible announcement of joining TPP negotiation at APEC and late Sept. visit to the US was held on 30 Aug. by non-partisan Diet members, farm and medical sectors, and civil groups. The venue was filled with some 700 participants. The Diet members later went to the prime minister’s office with resolution against possible announcement by PM Noda signed by 260 Diet members and held a press conference.