(Akahata: December 8, 2015 – pp. 1, 4)
Twelve nations, including Japan and the U.S., have reached a basic TPP agreement. The Shinzo Abe administration has begun to adopt remedial measures without even explaining the details of the agreement to the Diet. It compiled an outline of TPP-related measures on Nov. 25. It is attempting to make the TPP a fait accompli without explaining this basic agreement to the Diet and without a national debate. We looked at the ominous provisions of the TPP accord.
Japan has committed to the worst liberalization of imports of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries products in history under the basic TPP agreement.
Accelerating the downward spiral of agriculture
Tariffs will be abolished for 30% of products in the five sensitive agricultural sectors – rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products, and sugar. Of the remaining products protected by tariff, a special rice import quota will be created and tariff for beef and pork will be slashed drastically. This is an absolute debacle. It completely runs counter to the Diet resolution asking that no negotiations be made on the five sensitive sectors.
Tariffs for around half of 834 agriculture, forestry, and fisheries products whose tariffs have never been abolished in the past will be eliminated. How can the government claim that it achieved the “best results” in the negotiations?
As a result, the critical situation of agriculture and the rural villages at present will be aggravated further. There will be further devastation of the villages and the national territory, and Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate, which is among the lowest in the world, will decline further. The very foundation of the people’s survival will be threatened.
Past cases of liberalization of markets for beef, orange, rice, and other items show that the impact of liberalization cannot be avoided by taking remedial measures. Withdrawal from the TPP is the only and surest solution.
Accommodating U.S. companies’ demands
The TPP agreement treats systems vital to the people’s life and livelihood as “non-tariff barriers.” The government is saying there will be no change in the systems for medical services, food safety, and so forth. Yet, the use of more food additives will be allowed and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions are included in the TPP agreement.
In particular, the agreement reached at the Japan-U.S. negotiations held parallel to the TPP talks calls for removing the non-tariff barriers in nine areas, including insurance, investment, intellectual property, government procurement, and sanitary and phytosanitary matters (SPS). There is also a provision on heeding foreign companies’ opinions in the government’s Regulatory Reform Council. These are all demands big U.S. companies have been making over the years and an indication that various systems for the protection of the people’s livelihoods may be changed based on the demands of American multinational companies.
The TPP accord provides for “discussion” of the commitments Japan made on tariffs and other matters seven years after the agreement takes effect, i.e. additional negotiations. The question is not just the “basic agreement,” but the groundwork has also been laid for realizing the TPP principles of zero tariffs and removal of non-tariff barriers.
The Abe administration was subservient to the U.S. It made one compromise after another for the sake of reaching a deal at an early date. It gave top priority to the Japan-U.S. alliance and adopted a slavish attitude of loyalty to the U.S. in the name of participating in the making of trade rules in Asia and the Pacific.
The Abe administration also prioritized the interests of big companies over the people’s security and safety. While it is asserting that the TPP will broaden business opportunities and enable Japanese companies to bid for public works projects in foreign countries, in reality, only a handful of big companies will benefit.
In exchange, the government is handing the domestic market over to multinational companies. Small and mid-size enterprises, local industries, and regional economies are bound to degenerate. This is a path to the ruin of this country without any regard for the future of the people and the nation.
The “basic agreement” does not mean that the TPP is a done deal. Drawing up the final draft of the agreement, signing the accord, and ratification by the participating countries are necessary for the agreement to take effect. Because of the situation in the U.S., the signing of the TPP agreement will not take place before next February.
The ratification of at least six nations making up over 85% of the combined GDP of all TPP participants will be required for the agreement to take effect, so this will not be possible if either Japan or the U.S. fails to ratify.
Next year is a presidential election year in the U.S. so there is no room for discussing the TPP.
Fear of criticism
In Japan, the Abe administration is refusing to convene an extraordinary Diet session for fear of growing criticism after the details of the TPP basic agreement are revealed.
The Abe administration’s arbitrariness on the TPP is part of “Abe politics” as evidenced by its trampling on popular will with regard to the “war laws,” which resulted in a protest movement of unprecedented scale. The struggle to stop the TPP will also unfold as part of the people’s broad united front. In that sense, the House of Councillors election next year will be extremely important.
According to a survey conducted by the Japan Agricultural News on its monitors for agricultural administration (Oct. 28), the support rating for the Abe administration has dropped from 60% at the time the administration was inaugurated to 36% in July and to 18% after the basic TPP agreement was reached. There has been a dramatic increase in distrust of the Abe administration among farmers, who will be directly affected by the TPP. Pronouncing a harsh verdict on the Liberal Democratic Party in the Upper House election is the way for the people to settle the issue of the TPP. (Slightly abridged)