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POLITICS

With TPP deal clinched, ruling parties rushing for domestic farm measures

  • 2015-10-21 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: October 21, 2015 – p. 4)

 

 The government praises the content of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which it unveiled on October 20, for staying “in line with national interest.” But the pact will eliminate tariffs on about 30% of items in the key five farm products that the ruling and opposition forces had sought to protect. Concerns are mounting within the ruling parties that the change may have a significant impact on House of Councillors elections next summer. The government and the ruling parties are working to come up with measures that make domestic farmers more competitive.

 

 “In the end, [the TPP negotiations] produced optimum results,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga at a press conference on October 20. Akira Amari, minister in charge of TPP talks, noted that “the core of the five key products has been protected.”

 

 The TPP will eliminate tariffs on 81% of 2,328 farm items and 174 items from the five key areas, once it goes into force. It is expected to lower the prices of imported food and boost exports of industrial products.

 

 But a large influx of cheap foreign produce will hurt domestic farmers. Wariness is spreading mainly among legislators elected from farm-oriented constituencies. When a party parliamentary league for the promotion of fruit growers met at the Liberal Democratic Party headquarters on October 20, several members voiced concern about the elimination of a 32% tariff on oranges and called for effective measures.

 

 The opposition parties are looking to use the TPP deal as a tool to grill the ruling parties and the government. During a press conference on October 20, Goshi Hosono, policy chief at the Democratic Party of Japan, criticized the government for not conforming to the Diet resolution calling for protecting (the five key areas from tariff elimination). “It is apparently a violation of the Diet resolution,” he said.

 

 The content of the TPP deal will become the major point of discussions when the Diet meets for the next session. The government and the ruling parties hope to work out comprehensive measures within November to stave off criticism from the opposition forces.

 

 Former Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Cabinet Office Shinjiro Koizumi has been tapped as director of the LDP agriculture and forestry division. The LDP expects him to play an instrumental role in ironing out differences within the party. Koizumi told reporters on October 20, “I will do my best to explain in order to win their understanding.”

 

 Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Hiroshi Moriyama hails from Kagoshima Prefecture, a pork-producing region. He worked as a conduit between the government and the party during TPP negotiations.

 

 It seems the government is trying to work out domestic measures as soon as possible and alleviate concerns within the ruling parties by placing the influential people in the cabinet and the party.

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