Brief information on TPP in Japan #43

14 March, 2013
By Kondo,


 
Many reactions and statements circulated in response to Prime Minister’s clear intention to join the TPP negotiation. Yet LDP made their final decision and Prime Minister Abe is said to announce his final decision as early as 15 March. All as forecasted and a farce got up by the ruling party, Liberal Democratic Party headed by Mr. Abe. Every word referring to and checking on Japan’s possible participation in the TPP negotiation expressed by negotiators in Singapore is the same as comments made by Ms. Weisel since last July. You will find in the newspaper clippings that LDP has been working efficiently to prepare for Mr. Abe’s announcement, future participation in the TPP negotiation, and deal with farm and medical sectors. Now the concern to us protesters is that farm and medical sectors may compromise conditionally, because they have so far been the key and strong players. Consumers’ cooperatives are expected to prevent them from dropping out from the struggle.
 
< Clippings from The Nikkei Newspaper >

1、Feb.27 edition:
A.       Prime Minister Abe mentioned that he would present estimated economic effect of TPP and hear voices of LDP Diet members before his final decision on Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation. But, the chief secretary of LDP said in the meeting that the issue would not be discussed at the party convention. Instead, a special committee to deal with TPP issues will newly be set up under the party’s policy making body on diplomacy and economic partnership affairs. And Mr. Nishikawa is already appointed as the chairperson.

B.      LDP’s policy making body on diplomacy and economic partnership affairs drafted and presented the resolution to Prime Minister Abe. Mr. Abe said he would listen to voices in LDP and make his decision. Mr. Ishiba, the Secretary General of LDP confirmed that the issue would not be the agenda to be resolved at the Executive Council, the official decision making body of LDP. The following is the resolution mentioned above. And some words have been added to the election promise of LDP for the Dec. election last year. (Note that translation is only roughly and personally made. Therefore you are requested to use your best suitable imagination.) 
There are many cautious voices to the Japan/US joint statement. Japanese government should sincerely consider and respond to discussion inside LDP before making the final decision.
Upon making the decision, national interests to be protected should  f be fully recognized, and clear lines must be addressed. The national interests are defined as the following.
From the election promise.
 1.     To oppose to participation in the negotiation as far as non exceptional tariff abolition is the  precondition .
 2.     Not to accept numerical target for the import of automobile and other industrial products.
 3.     To maintain the public health care system.
 4.     To maintain and secure standards for food safety.
 5.     Not to agree on the ISDS provision.
 6.     To take into account special aspects of Japanese system in government procurements and financial service.

    Added to the above are the following.
 1.     Reinforcement of patents for medicine which may impede pharmaceutical policy of Japan, and reinforcement of protection of copyrights which may worsen the international balance of payments shouldn’t be agreed upon.
 2.     Licenses for lawyers, CPAs, nurses and other specialists need special consideration on characteristics of Japan.
 3.     Rights to decide such policies as fishery subsidiaries should be preserved.
 4.     The introduction of foreign capital to media and the resale system should be regulated based on characteristics of Japanese system.
 5.     Characteristics of Japanese system should be considered in competition policy between state owned enterprises and private enterprises.


2、  Feb.28 edition:
Medical Association confirmed pre-condition for joining the TPP negotiation. Mr. Yokokura, the Chairperson made it clear on 27 Feb. that it would be the pre-condition of Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiation not to further ease medical treatment partially covered by public health insurance. At the same time he welcome PM Abe’s standpoint to protect the health insurance system.

3、  March 2 edition:
Nonpartisan Diet members to start the “Coalition of Diet members to promote TPP”. The coalition consists of DPJ(the former ruling party), MINNA-no-TO or Your Party and ISHIN-no-KAI, or Japan Restoration Party initiated by Mr. Edano, the former Industrial Minister, Mr. Nakada, acting chairperson of the Policy Affairs Research Council of ISHIN-no-KAI and Mr. Asao, the chairperson of the Policy Research Council of MINNA-no-TO.

4、 March 3 edition:
A.    Japan and EU to officially agree on the start of their EPA negotiation. Mr. Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso will visit with Japan at the end of March to meet with PM. Abe and they are forecasted to agree on the start of their EPA negotiation.  In addition, they will start negotiation of Political Agreement which includes approx. 30 agenda of broad areas.

B.    Japanese government to examine the order of priority of sensitive items. First priorities to rice and sugar. The government considers five groups of food items to be protected, but doubts if it is possible. Agricultural cooperatives also requested the five groups to be protected. And they are rice, wheat and barley, sugar, dairy products and beef. Japan excluded 940 tariff lines of food items which represent approx. 10% in the past EPAs and FTAs.
Exceptions
Food items
Tariff rate
Tariff lines
Liberalized %
Five groups
Rice
778%
58 items
99.4%
 
Dairy products
218 to 360%
188 items
 
 
Beef
38.5%
51 items
 
 
Sugar
328%
81 items
 
 
Wheat and barley
252 to 256%
109 items
 
 
Total of five
 
487 items
94.6%
 
5、  March 5 edition:
A.    16th Round of TPP negotiation started in Singapore. (The text omitted.)
B.    LDP to reorganize policy making structure of three layers to handle TPP matters.
1)    The headquarters to promote diplomacy and EPAs headed by Mr. Etoh under direct control of Prime Minister.
2)    TPP committee headed by Mr. Nishikawa under the above organization.
3)    Three issue expert teams in the TPP committee. The team to adjust regional interests consisting of representatives from different districts The team to identify sensitive items and deal with agricultural issues. The information team to collect information through diplomatic activities by Diet Members and back up negotiators. The party is estimated to demand the government 10% of the tariff line as exceptions, while the government is estimated to select 2% represented by rice and sugar.

6、  March 6 edition:
Auto mobile issue to be almost agreed on and Prime Minister may announce intention to join the TPP negotiation as early next week. Japan agreed that the US would reduce import tariff on Japanese cars in longer period of time than the case in Korea/US FTA. The US imposes 25% tax on trucks and 2.5% on cars, while Japan imposes 0%. Japan will ease import inspection by increasing the minimum number of cars for inspection from 1 per 2000 to 1 per 5000 cars under Preferential Handling Procedure. Preferential taxation on low displacement cars shall be negotiated later and the safety standard will further be negotiated because of the wide difference of standpoints between the two countries.

7、  March.8 edition:
A.    Prime Minister to establish a special Cabinet ministers’ meeting. The ministers’ meeting shall deal with TPP matters and full-time task force of government officials will be increased adding officials from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, so that the Cabinet Office may better handle the issue.

B.    TPP Committee of LDP to present their proposal to Prime Minister.
The Committee has so far conducted hearing about standpoints on TPP from Agricultural, Fishery, Forestry, Automobile, Medical and insurance sectors. The committee will present their proposal to Prime Minister on 13 March.

8、 March 10 edition:
ASEAN and EU to restart the FTA negotiation. Mr. Minh, Secretary General of ASEAN confirmed that ASEAN economic ministers had a meeting in Hanoi on 9 March with EU including Mr. De Gucht, Trade Minister and agreed to restart their FTA negotiation.

9、 March 12 edition:
Cabinet ministers to directly explain to stakeholder farm sectors when announcement of Japan’s intention to join the TPP negotiation released. P.M. Abe stated at the Diet that it would be a small scale meeting where frank exchange of opinions would be easier.

10、 March 13 edition:
P.M Abe to announce Japan’s intention to join the TPP negotiation on or after 15 Marc, while farm sectors, civil societies jointly held a rally of 4,000 participants on 12 March. Mr. Abe made his decision considering that it would be indispensable to participate in rule-making egotiations to materialize Japan’s interests. The team of the TPP committee to identify specific sensitive items and agricultural issues made the proposal to P.M. Abe on 12 March that rice, wheat and barley, dairy products, sugar, beef and pork and etc, should be exceptions in the tariff abolition and that it should be the pre-condition to join the negotiation. Even step by step tariff abolition shouldn’t be accepted. Depending on the situation, Japan shall leave the negotiation .
Mr. Ozato, Director of Agriculture and Forestry Division expressed that 834 tariff line, 10% of the total which are the exceptions in Japan’s EPAs and FTAs so far effectuated should be the exceptions as well as in TPP. New Komeito, the coalition of LDP held a meeting of the TPP project team and resolved that the above mentioned items should be the exceptions and demanded the Government to release the estimated economic affect of TPP at the same time as Mr. Abe’s announcement.

< Anti-TPP activities update. >
1、  Since the release of Japan/US joint statement, there have been a lot of statements by opposition organizations and groups. Our coalition “STOP TPP!! Civil Action” received more than ten statements from members including “People’s Action against TPP”.
Agricultural Cooperatives, Trade Unions also released their statements denouncing the joint statement of Mr. Abe and Obama. The Chairperson of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, in particular, expressed strong concerns and suggested cooperative members watch behaviors of LDP candidates in the July election of the House of Councilors.

2、  “The Conference to Consider TPP” virtually headed by Mr. Yamada and the legislators group to cautiously consider TPP now headed by Mr. Shinohara, DPJ member who won the previous election of the House of Representatives reshuffled their groups and restarted their activities.

3、  We, civil groups are preparing for a meeting jointly with lawmakers’ groups, cooperatives and trade unions to strengthen joint struggles scheduled on 2 April, and going to discuss strategy to launch big rallies in June and on. June is the timing prior to the summer election and the US Congress to decide “90 day matter” on Japan’s participation. September will be the timing prior to APEC and possible Japan’s first appearance at the TPP negotiation.

4、The net work led by agricultural cooperatives held a big rally of 4,000 participants on 12 March, and lawmakers and civil groups joined. Three consumers’ cooperatives with 1.2 million consumer members are members of both the above network and our network of civil coalition.