(Ekonomisuto: December 8, 2015 – p. 25)
Question: What are the advantages for Japan of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)?
Akira Amari: Under the TPP, the number of products for which tariffs will be eliminated is the largest of all the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) so far. Japanese products will be able to make inroads into overseas markets based on Japanese rules because not only the tariffs but also the rules will be integrated. The rules to be used in the economic zone, which accounts for 40% of the world economy, will eventually become global standards. As a founding member, Japan will have immeasurable advantages.
Q: Many people involved in agriculture are opposed to the TPP.
Amari: Japan must protect its five key farm product items. We cannot deal with agricultural products based only on economic rationality. In addition, even if the Japanese agricultural market is liberalized, Japan is not yet ready to sell its farm products in new markets. That’s why we have set import quotas until the tariffs are lifted.
Q: What measures do you have in mind to respond to other countries?
Amari: We are now carefully examining the impact on domestic farm products that will be exposed to competition when inexpensive products are imported. Corporate-style strategies must be used to market products to specific customer segments by emphasizing quality, taste, and safety, instead of competing by price. Farmers will not be able to survive unless they completely shift their attitude from “defensive” to “offensive.” The Netherlands, which have less cultivated farmland than Japan, is the second-largest exporter of farm products in the world because it takes advantage of IT technology.
Q: We can’t help feeling that Japan was overpowered by the United States with regard to extending the copyright protection term.
Amari: With respect to the copyright protection term, there were various proposals, including Mexico’s proposal of 100 years, and the term has been standardized. Small magazines that publish manga and anime parodies are concerned about the rule to crack down on copyright violation even when the copyright holder hasn’t filed a claim. However, the rule is applied when the market value of a copyright holder is damaged. Otherwise, the rule is not applied.
Q: How about concern about food safety standards?
Amari: Japan will not be required by other countries to change its food safety. Our country will continue to make its own decisions. In connection with labeling to indicate genetically modified food, it is not necessary for Japan to adopt the U.S. labeling system.
Q: In the U.S. there are voices calling for renegotiating the agreement.
Amari: Renegotiating the agreement is out of the question. The agreements between various countries are all interconnected in a complicated way. If we tried to renegotiate certain items, the entire agreement would collapse. This is what USTR Michael Froman has said.
Q: Is there any possibility that China and South Korea will join the TPP?
Amari: South Korea has said that it would like to join immediately. In addition, three to four countries and regions have voiced their intention to join. There is also a possibility that China will join. However, if China joins the TPP, it will have to abide by global standards. The TPP does not allow countries to demand certain conditions after companies have expanded overseas, such as technology transfer. A trilateral summit meeting by Japan, China and South Korea was held and negotiations on an economic partnership agreement between Japan and the European Union have now moved forward because of the progress made in the TPP talks.