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Commentary: LDP’s TPP measures mostly protectionist, short on growth strategy

  • 2015-11-18 15:00:00
  • , Asahi
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(Asahi: November 18, 2015 – p. 3)

 

 By Shigeo Ohata

 

 The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) officially decided on its proposed agricultural measures to cope with the TPP accord on Nov. 17. These will be incorporated into the government’s TPP measures to be compiled later this month. The proposals mostly consist of protectionist policies strongly demanded by the relevant industrial organizations, such as measures to maintain rice prices and stabilize income for livestock farmers, but have very little to show in terms of “growth strategy” for agriculture, which is viewed as a critical issue.

 

 Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Zenchu) Chairman Choe Okuno welcomed these proposals. He told reporters: “Our demands were basically met. If these measures are implemented properly, we will have a bulwark against the TPP.”

 

 The LDP made very specific proposals to protect farmers. However, it did not come up with many concrete proposals for “aggressive agriculture, forestry, and fisheries,” which the Abe administration advocates, because many LDP members voiced the opinion that “hasty discussions” should be avoided.

 

 Shinjiro Koizumi, head of the Agriculture and Forestry Division, stated that “this is not the end of agricultural measures,” indicating that more concrete proposals will be made by fall next year, based on the views of the producers.

 

 He had reiterated on several occasions that “if we come up with a budget figure first, that will be the end of the efforts.”

 

 The LDP did not come up with a specific amount of funding this time to avoid being criticized for pork barrel spending. Public work projects, such as the construction of dikes and farm roads, were also placed in a different category.

 

 However, a House of Councillors election is taking place next summer. A senior agricultural cooperative official notes that [TPP measures] will inevitably have an impact on the election. Some LDP members are already saying “increasing public works projects holds the key.”

 

 Prof. Masayoshi Honma of the University of Tokyo’s graduate school, who specializes in agricultural economics, gave the following comments on the LDP’s proposals: “Many of them are merely an extension of existing policies. They are mostly the product of a ‘pork barrel’ mindset of trying to determine where to hand out the subsidies.” (Slightly abridged)

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