(Yomiuri: December 4, 2015 – p. 4)
The House of Representatives Committees on the Cabinet and on Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries held a joint meeting on Dec. 3 while the Diet is in recess to discuss the TPP accord. The opposition members criticized the basic agreement reached by the 12 TPP participant nations for “inconsistency with the Diet resolution,” while the government defended the outcome of the negotiations. No consensus was reached.
The main issue at the joint meeting was whether the basic TPP agreement reached in October is compatible with the resolution passed at both houses of the Diet seeking the maintenance of tariff for the five sensitive agricultural sectors, including rice and beef.
The Democratic Party of Japan’s Takahiro Sasaki, a former state minister of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, pointed out that since the basic agreement includes reduction of tariff on beef and pork and expansion of rice import quotas, it is incompatible with the Diet resolution which says: “If the sensitive product sectors cannot be protected, Japan will be prepared to drop out from the TPP talks.”
In response to this, TPP Minister Akira Amari argued that the ratio of Japan’s agricultural products not subject to tariff elimination is exceptionally high at 19% when the average ratio for the other 11 TPP nations stands at only 1.5%, seeking the committee members’ understanding.
Amari also said: “We will ask the Diet to judge on the excruciating efforts we (the negotiators) made.” He indicated that he will give very thorough explanations at the deliberations in the next regular Diet session on the TPP accord and the necessary implementing legislations for the ratification of the TPP agreement.
Meanwhile, ruling party members complimented the “extremely tough negotiations” in their interpellations at the meeting.