(Mainichi: October 29, 2015 – p. 5)
By Kazuya Nakajima
The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is holding the first meeting of its headquarters for comprehensive TPP measures on Oct. 29 to begin full-fledged efforts to study policies to cope with the TPP accord, focusing on agriculture. Although the Prime Minister’s Official Residence normally takes the lead in making key policies under the Abe administration, the LDP is desperate to make the presence of the party felt in order to retain the agricultural votes in the House of Councillors election next summer.
While the TPP accord covers a wide range of sectors, including industry and intellectual property, agriculture is the sector that is likely to have a major impact on the LDP’s election campaign. For this reason, former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa was named the deputy chief of the headquarters, while former State Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Takamori Yoshikawa serves as the secretary general. Senior headquarters officials are all Diet members lobbying for agricultural issues.
While these lawmakers will be responsible for actual deliberation on agricultural measures, it is also necessary to explain the substance of the TPP agreement in layman’s language to LDP supporters nationwide. Headquarters officials are counting on the communication capability of “two prime minister’s sons” – Shinjiro Koizumi, head of the Agriculture and Forestry Division who is serving his third term in the House of Representatives, and Tatsuo Fukuda, deputy division chief who is serving his second term in the Lower House. Koizumi and others will hold briefings in several locations in the country from early November to listen to the opinions of the public.
The headquarters on TPP measures will compile the party’s policies by Nov. 20 and the government will draft its outline of TPP measures incorporating these proposals as soon as Nov. 25. Rice farmers and others are expected to make strong demands for protectionist measures in anticipation of the formulation of a FY2015 supplementary budget.
Koizumi told reporters after a meeting of his division on Oct. 27 that TPP measures “should not only be a shot in the arm,” indicating a negative view on time-honored protectionist measures. The government’s Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP) gives emphasis to expansion of farmland through aggregation, promotion of exports, and other policies for enhancing competitiveness.
However, another opinion in the LDP is that “a certain amount of allocations for TPP measures is necessary in the run-up to the Upper House election even if they may be criticized as wasteful spending.” It will probably be difficult to reach a consensus. (Slightly abridged)