(Tokyo Shimbun: December 19, 2015 – p. 6)
The government has included 340.3 billion yen in the supplementary budget for TPP countermeasures mainly related to agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. At the same time, however, the Japanese government has yet to finish its provisional calculations of the TPP’s impact on domestic industries, as it is not sure when the TPP will come into effect due to the opposition to the trade pact in the United States Congress.
In November, the Japanese government and ruling parties compiled a “policy outline” listing TPP countermeasures, and funds have been appropriated in the supplementary budget for some of them.
Allocations related to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries come to 312.2 billion yen. This includes 50.5 billion yen for a new project called the “project to upgrade agricultural areas,” which will support the purchase of state-of-the-art farm machinery and tools and facilities, and 61 billion yen for the “stockbreeding cluster project,” which plans to raise the profitability of stockbreeding by creating local clusters. In each case, a foundation will be set up to enable disbursements that span multiple fiscal years. In the area of land improvement, a total of 94 billion yen has been earmarked with 37 billion yen set aside for farmland to be divided into large lots and 40.6 billion yen for the conversion of paddy fields into dry fields.
Separate from this, 43.1 billion yen has been earmarked mainly for expenses to support overseas expansion by small and medium-sized enterprises. This included setting up the “New Export Superpower” Consortium by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry jointly with the local chambers of commerce and industry and others.
Funds are being allotted in the supplementary budget for TPP countermeasures even though it is not clear when the TPP will take effect and how the trade pact will impact Japan. A METI official explains the grounds for doing this: “Some companies are already making moves to enter overseas markets in anticipation of the TPP, so the government also needs to rush to take measures.” The Ministry of Finance offers this justification: “It is never too early to implement measures to strengthen the agriculture industry in order to ensure that it can withstand the impact of the TPP.”
Another factor behind the rush to earmark funds for TPP countermeasures, however, is the fact that the LDP is applying pressure through its Agriculture and Forestry Division among others, saying, “Measures are needed because there is strong concern and dissatisfaction among those involved in agriculture regarding the content of the TPP agreement.”