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Editorial: Diet should debate TPP to address public concerns

  • 2016-02-05 15:00:00
  • , Tokyo Shimbun
  • Translation

(Tokyo Shimbun: February 5, 2016 – p. 5)

 

 Diet deliberations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact will kick off following the official signing of the accord by the 12 member nations. Legislators are expected to hold in-depth discussions so doubts over individual trade items and public concerns will be eased.

 

 To begin with, the TPP should be called into question in terms of “trust.”

 

 Trade liberalization brings benefits, but it also causes pain for some people. The TPP negotiations were led by a minister who shamelessly received money from a specific firm at his office. Can the public really trust the outcome of these negotiations from the bottom of their hearts?

 

 The politician should be fully aware of the gravity of his responsibility and practice self-discipline.

 

 At the House of Representatives’ Budget Committee on Feb. 3, a new dispute erupted between Nobuteru Ishihara, the new TPP minister, and opposition Democratic Party of Japan members over whether a Diet resolution calling for protecting farm produce from tariff elimination had been observed during the trade talks.

 

 The TPP negotiations covered a wide range of fields, such as trade, investment, services and intellectual property. Many questions and concerns are being raised, as they were held behind the scenes. The ruling and opposition parties should hold in-depth discussions to clarify the advantages and disadvantages of the accord, as well as its contents.

 

 “Anxiety” among the public can be identified as one characteristic of the TPP negotiations. Doshisha University Professor Satoshi Oyane tallied the words that Diet members had used in anti-TPP arguments since 2008. The most frequently used keywords included: “damage to agriculture,” “food security,” “healthcare insurance,” “loss of jobs and wage decline,” “investor-state dispute settlement provisions,” and “U.S. benefits and conspiracy.”

 

 “The anti-TPP arguments are mainly characterized by anxiety over competition and infringement brought by neoliberalism and globalization,” said Oyane. “This was not a prominent feature of the past trade negotiations.”

 

 On the other hand, pro-TPP arguments were shaped by such words as “the facilitation of free trade,” “the strengthening of Japan-U.S. relationship” and “regional security.” These depict efforts to keep China’s rise in check and diplomatic maneuvering and confrontation between the U.S. and China in East Asia.

 

 The TPP negotiations cover a range of fields in concrete and detailed terms. This will likely make the Diet discussions complicated.

 

 The most important thing is to discuss individual items that are directly linked to people’s livelihoods. But the overall picture of the TPP will not be captured unless perspectives on globalization and regional security are included.

 

 As the economy slows down, income disparities are growing. Against this backdrop, legislators must work hard to ease public anxieties over the TPP during Diet deliberations.

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