Brief information on TPP in Japan #32

18 Nov, 2012
By Kondo,

Now the month of election in Japan has started, and TPP and EPAs policy progress in Japan will get stagnant for the time being. Even if P.M Noda announces and confirm Japanese participation in the negotiation, member countries will not accept the message as it is. There’s no chance for the ruling DPJ to win the majority in the election or DPJ will even lose its position as the leading party. So the important is the stand point of the post-election administration. Liberal Democratic Party will most likely be the post-election leading party which opposes to non-exceptional tariff abolition to secure its victory in the election. But we cannot exclude the possibility that LDP changes its position some time after the election. As of 17 Nov, DPJ has 233 seats and its coalition partner has 3 seats while DPJ gained 308 seats in the previous election. The fixed number is 480 and the majority is above 240. The loss from 308 to 233 is mostly due to secessionists this year. The House was dissolved on 16 Nov, public notice of the election will be on 4 Dec, and voting on 16 Dec.

< Clippings from The Nikkei Newspaper >

1、Nov.10 edition:
Japan-US Business Council urged Japanese government to officially announce Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. The 49th meeting ended in Tokyo on 9 Nov. releasing a joint statement stating the strong support of Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation as early as possible. The co-chairperson AFLAC Japan Charles Lake said that P.M Noda’s resolution should be assured in a way such as the decision at the Cabinet meeting and it should be succeeded to next administration. The co-chair, Mr.Yonekura, President of Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations strongly expected P.M. Noda’s official announcement at East Asian Summit Meeting and emphasized that if Japan missed the chance, participation in the TPP negotiation would be meaningless. He also opposed to new financial and insurance business by Japan Post.

2、Nov. 9 through 11 edition:
The ruling DPJ to write in its election promise Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation as an important plolicy. Mr.Noda told the press corps on 10 Nov that he would pursue TPP along with Japan/China/ Korea FTA as the fundamental economic policy to be written in the election promise in his Democratic Party of Japan. He seems to clearly have considered strengthening US/Japan Alliance and distinguish his policy from that of Liberal Democratic Party who is cautious about TPP. He mentioned that the election promise would be made by 16 Nov, but he also mentioned that he didn’t have any particular timing of official announcement of Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. The election is likely to take place by the end of this year or at latest in January. Deputy Prime Minister Okada, Minister of National Policy Maehara, Foreign Minister Genba and Minister of Economy, Trade & Industry Edano also referred to the importance of early participation in TPP. There are a certain number of Diet members in DPJ who may leave the party if Noda announces the TPP participation officially and DPJ loses its position of majority in the House of Representatives by another six secessionists. Some says additional secessionists will adversely affect the election. The chief of policy-making body of DPJ, Hosono in charge of the election promise suggests that TPP be not placed in the center of the policy expecting to prevent further secessionists. On the other hand, certain well-informed source in the Foreign Ministry said Japan-US prior consultation on the automobile issue hasn’t made any significant progress and the prospects are unpredictable. And regardless of Japan’s official announcement, the US wouldn’t proceed quickly.

3、 Nov.15 edition:
Thai government resolved intention to join TPP negotiation at their cabinet meeting. The cabinet resolution will be included in the joint statement when US President Obama visits the country. Thailand so far depend on ASEAN community to be effective in 2015 or on ASEAN+6, but now they seem to pursue benefits both from TPP and ASEAN+6 to maintain their competitiveness in the region and compete with Vietnam or Malaysia who have joined TPP already. On the other hand, the US strategically seeks for access to financial market, transportation and telecommunication of which US has competitiveness. More importantly the US tries to recover its special treatment status in Thailand which US used to have in “US/Thai Friendship Trade Treaty which gave National Treatment to US companies but expired when WTO started. WTO restricts exceptional treatment to a member country. Once the two countries negotiated bilateral FTA, but failed because Thailand opposed to IP provisions. Thailand already have FTAs with 8 TPP countries but not with US, Canada and Mexico, and it also wants to have better access to US market which stands for 8 % of Thailand’s trade. Export amount to US was 35.1 billion USD in 2011 having increased by 70% in the past ten years. The US and Japanese companies having their subsidiaries in Thailand also welcome Thai commitment to TPP which gives business opportunities to them. But an official of Commerce Ministry commented that it might take one or two years to finish with the public hearing and approval from the national assembly before actually joining TPP negotiation.

4、Nov.15 edition:
Major opposition party LDP suggested possible participation in TPP negotiation. Mr. Abe, President of LDP met with Japanese Chamber of Commerce on 15 Nov. morning to discuss their policy toward the election and suggested possible participation in TPP negotiation after LDP’s returning to power by stating that his administration would be able to better negotiate to get exceptions for tariff abolition.

5、Nov.16 edition:
No playmaker to push EPA negotiations. Important decision makings on EPAs might be frozen till the structure of the political power becomes concrete. Now that the election of the House of Representatives prevails in political arena here in Japan and that crucial and trade policy related events are coming one after another, it is doubtful whether the Noda Administration can well handle the situation. On the other hand anti-TPP legislators, farm sectors and civil groups filled a hall near the Diet Building on 15 Nov. morning. And in the afternoon on the same day, Japanese Agricultural Cooperatives invited all the political parties with only two absent held an assembly raising their strong voices and made those guests take an allegiance test on TPP. The farm sectors have 9 million voters.

6、Nov.18 edition:
Joint statement of 16 countries on RCEP at East Asian Summit revealed, while 7 TPP member countries to hold a summit meeting on 20 Dec. including US President Obama. The joint statement will announce the start of negotiations early in 2013 and seek to close the negotiation in 2015. It also emphasizes that RCEP will seek comprehensive and high level trade and investment rules, seek to reduce non-tariff barriers more than in FTAs already effectuated by member countries, and to achieve the progress of regional integration.

< Anti-TPP activities update. >

During the coming one month, we will focus on rallies taking the election into account. Legislators group to cautiously consider the TPP held its 42th hearing from government officials in which civil groups had chances of giving questions on 8 Nov. And on 15 Nov, The national Conference to Consider the TPP held a rally together with civil groups and Agricultural Cooperatives. Agricultural Cooperatives also held a mass rally inviting all the representatives of political parties and made them take an allegiance test. Our coalition, “Stop TPP!! Civil Action” will take actions stated in the previous information such as an open questioning letters to political parties, release of the result of questions to legislators on their standpoint on TPP, and a press-conference together with civil groups raising other issues.