Brief information on TPP in Japan #40

 22 Feb, 2013
By Kondo,

Right before Prime Minister Abe’s departure for Washington, there are a lot of news paper reports, but all old talks only. All the newspapers seem to make his March announcement of joining the TPP negotiation an accomplished fact among the public. He actually confirmed that he would make his decision before the July election. And he will for sure announce Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. But, everything is subject to present TPP countries’ judgment, US congressional judgment in particular and the extent of down payment which   Japan will give. And they all want latest possible timing participation of Japan. Therefore, we, in Japan shouldn’t be flustered or change our strategy. But the reality is that Diet members opposing to TPP lost their power, the dynamism of the civil movement is stagnant for a while, and business groups such as Agricultural cooperatives and medical associations seem to have moved backward. Both of the business groups have their own candidates for the July election from the ruling LDP. And they are wondering how they measure the sense of distance with the Abe Administration in relation to the TPP matter. We the civil groups will focus on reorganizing widest possible front as early as possible and will try to feed energy into the movement again.

< Clippings from The Nikkei Newspaper >

1、  Feb.12 edition:
Prime Minister Abe stated in response to a question at the budget committee of the Diet that he would not express intention to join the TPP negotiation at the meeting with President Obama.

2、 Feb.13 edition:
A.      Japanese government presented its basic policy to the budget committee of the House of Representatives upon their demand only stating, “As far as the precondition to join the TPP negotiation is non-exceptional tariff abolition, Japan will not join the negotiation.”

B.      “Study Group on TPP”, internal group of LDP to push Japan’s participation in TPP held its first meeting with approx. 30 members. They concluded to present to the government suggestions on how to deal with exceptions of tariff abolition, once Japan joins the TPP negotiation.

3、 Feb. 14 edition:
A.    US and EU President released a joint statement on 13 Feb, that the US and EU agreed on the start of FTA negotiation. The global trade standards will be subject to the deal between the two big players representing 50% of world GDP and 30% of world trade. (head line only and the text is omitted.)

B.    LDP’s Policy Affairs Research Council on TPP presented the “guideline” for Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation and Mr. Abe as the party leader approved. Although the guideline only follows the six preconditions of the party’s election promise at the Dec. election, it is widely interpreted as preserving some room for Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. And it is also understood that as far as the document is a “guideline” and not an official resolution by the Executive Council of LDP, the decision is subject to Prime Minister Abe. It is like a procedural ritual. But, it is not yet clear whether exceptions will be approved among TPP countries. The outcome of the discussion between high level Japanese officials and Mr. Cutler is not disclosed who spent some days in Tokyo last week.

4、 Feb.19 edition:
The opposition group in LDP resolved that they do not approve Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. The Conference to demand immediate withdrawal of announcing participation in TPP resolved on 19 Feb. that they strongly oppose to Prime Minister’s announcement of the intention to join the TPP negotiation at the meeting with President Obama. The resolution pointed out that TPP will seriously affect agriculture and forestry, public health insurance system, food safety standards and etc. And they clearly stated in the resolution that they cannot approve participation in the TPP negotiation at this moment.

5、Feb.20 edition:
US. Australia and other countries said they would expect Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. The above comment was presented at the Trade Policy Reviews Body of WTO to review trade policy of Japan on 19 Feb. Chile and New Zealand also expressed the same comment.

6、Feb.21 edition:
A.    Prime Minister said he would make final decision on the TPP matter before the July election of the House of Councilors. In response to a question at the budget committee of the House of Councilors, he clearly said he would consider after the meeting with President Obama and make the decision whether or not to join the TPP negotiation. It is forecasted he will make the decision as early as in March.

B.    USTR Ron Kirk said in order to start procedures for the TPP negotiation, every matter should be tabled. (The rest is omitted.)

7、 Feb.22 edition:
A.    Prime Minister Abe left Tokyo for Washington. The question about TPP is whether everything shall be “on the table”, some “off the table” or “negotiable.” (The rest is omitted, as there is not much worth reporting.)

B.    On the same day as Abe’s departure for Washington, the preliminary negotiation on Japan/ China/ Korea FTA was completed in Tokyo. The first official round will take place at the end of March or the beginning of April in Seoul.
< Anti-TPP activities update. >
We, People’s Action against TPP had a strategy meeting on 18 Feb. where Mr. Yamada, the leading figure among the Diet members against TPP joined. Through our recent discussion, Mr. Yamada confirmed his determination that he would reorganize the “National Conference to Consider the TPP” (a wide coalition once led by Diet members of DPJ, the former ruling party) and he and Mr. Shinohara, now the leading figure in DPJ would reorganize the nonpartisan group among Diet members. If things go well, our civil coalition network “Stop TPP!! Civil Action” , nonpartisan Diet members and agricultural cooperatives will hold a strategic discussion sometime in March. People’s Action against TPP is going to table a June rally, pre and during APEC rally and further cooperation with international networks at the meeting of our coalition network “STOP TPP!! Civil Action”.