(Kanagawa Shimbun: January 16, 2016 – p. 2)
The Democratic Party of Japan is seeking to oppose the government’s proposal for obtaining Diet ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. In an interim report on the trade pact it has drafted, it criticized the government for not making sufficient efforts to save the key five agricultural items from tariff elimination and stated that “[the TPP] does not protect Japan’s national interests.”
The DPJ is also calling on the Japan Innovation Party, which it allies with in the House of Representatives, to side with it on the issue, a senior DPJ official revealed on Jan. 15. With the House of Councillors election slated to kick off in the summer, the move is aimed at drumming up support from farm constituencies. But the fact that the DPJ decided that Japan would join the TPP talks when the party was in power is drawing criticism from the ruling parties. “It is changing its stance just to win votes,” said a mid-ranking member of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is planning to seek Diet ratification of the TPP and submit related bills, which include agricultural measures, in early March for enactment during the current Diet session.
The interim report was presented at a joint meeting between the DPJ and the JIP held on Jan. 15. The DPJ is planning to approve it by completing in-house procedures by the end of next week. Some members of the JIP are expressing a cautious stance, but the party is considering falling in step with the DPJ due to its alliance with the party.
The report stated that the TPP agreement “does not protect areas that should be protected and is not assertive in areas where Japan should be more assertive.” The Diet passed a resolution in April 2013 calling for protecting the five areas, such as rice, pork and beef, from zero-tariff rules. But the report said: “Tariffs are reduced or eliminated in most of these areas, and it is hard to say that the government worked hard to protect them from tax elimination.”
On Japan’s demand for tariff elimination in the automobile industry during talks with the U.S., the report pointed out that “tariffs on autos will be eliminated 15 years after the pact comes into force at the earliest.” It also said that countermeasures have not been established in case the U.S. violates this rule.
On the government’s estimate that the TPP will boost Japan’s gross domestic product by about 13.6 trillion yen, the report criticized that “preconditions are arbitrary” and demanded the government provide sufficient reasoning. (Abridged)