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Replacement of farm minister has minimal impact on TPP talks, reforms

  • 2015-02-24 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: February 24, 2015 – p. 3)


 By Naotake Katori, economic reporter


 Yoshimasa Hayashi, who was agriculture minister from December 2012 to September 2014, has been appointed to replace Agriculture Minister Koya Nishikawa. It is widely believed that this “minimizes” the impact on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which are now at a critical stage, and agricultural cooperative reform, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).


 Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence on Feb. 23 that Hayashi is “fully knowledgeable about policies and the present situation, so there will be no adverse effect at all (on the TPP talks and agricultural cooperative reform).”


 When Hayashi was agriculture minister, he succeeded in drawing up the policy to abolish by FY2018 the production adjustment (acreage reduction) system for rice aimed at maintaining prices, thus achieving a major shift in the administration of rice production. Japan joined the TPP talks in July 2013.


 Japan, the U.S., and 10 other TPP participants are currently working toward a basic agreement at a ministerial meeting to be held in April. For now, the key issue is whether Japan and the U.S., the leading TPP players, will be able to reach final agreement on tariffs on beef, pork, rice, and other agricultural products. Depending on how negotiations go from now, Hayashi may have to make tough decisions on whether to accept the U.S.’s demands.


 Before becoming agriculture minister, Nishikawa had been the head of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) TPP committee. He was active in diplomacy with the lawmakers of the other participating nations. As a senior Diet member specializing in agricultural issues, he also played the role of restraining opposition within the LDP. It will be interesting to see how Hayashi will stem the resistance of agricultural groups after a basic agreement is reached in the TPP talks.


 With regard to agricultural cooperative reform, Hayashi stressed at a news conference on Feb. 23 that the agricultural cooperative reforms outlined by the LDP on Feb. 9 will be implemented as planned. MAFF is currently working on amendments to the Agricultural Cooperative Law to strip the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu) of its power to issue guidance to and audit local cooperatives.


 Hayashi: “A decision has been made to pass (the amendments) in the current Diet session. I will work toward achieving this goal.”

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