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Farm Ministry mulls TPP-related measures lasting over 10 years

  • 2015-10-26 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: October 25, 2015 – p. 2)

 

 It was learned on Oct. 24 that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are contemplating measures that will last over 10 years to cope with the TPP accord. Long-term assistance is deemed necessary because it will take 10 years or so from the effectuation of the TPP agreement to completely eliminate tariffs on many products. Measures to promote the aggregation of farmland and provide income compensation to livestock farmers will be implemented to enhance farmers’ competitiveness.

 

 Measures taken for the Uruguay Round agreement of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1993 were intended to be implemented for six years at first, but were later extended to eight years to lessen the financial burden for each fiscal year. TPP measures lasting longer than these are being considered.

 

 The government intends to compile an outline of the TPP measures in November for inclusion in a FY2015 supplementary budget. The LDP will also start working seriously on these measures early this week.

 

 Under the basic TPP agreement, about 51% of Japanese agricultural products will become tariff-free — including those that are already zero-tariff at present — immediately after the accord takes effect. Tariffs on other products will be reduced gradually, with around 79% of all products becoming tariff-free after 10 years. This figure will ultimately increase to 81%.

 

 The elimination or reduction of tariffs may affect domestic agriculture for an extended period of time. Strengthening the competitiveness of farmers will also take time.

 

 The government is considering increasing subsidies to farmers leasing their land to the “farmland bank” to expand this program for land aggregation. Legislation will also be developed on income compensation for livestock farmers raising beef cows and pigs, two sectors that are expected to be seriously affected by tariff reduction.

 

 The overall spending for the Uruguay Round measures came to approximately 6 trillion yen but there had been widespread criticism that the measures did not contribute to enhancing the competitiveness of Japan’s agriculture. The government wants to curb spending for the TPP measures, so senior MAFF officials all agree that, “We need to avoid measures that will be viewed by the voters as pork barrel spending.”

 

 However, many LDP members are clamoring for generous budget allocations with the House of Councillors election next summer in mind. Fierce maneuvering is expected in the policy formulation process.

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