(Mainichi: February 5, 2016 – p. 6)
If the TPP comes into effect, the tariffs on many agricultural products that Japan imports will be lowered or removed. While this will benefit consumers, farmers, especially those in regional areas, are very concerned about such a development, and the government plans to accelerate discussions of measures to strengthen Japan’s agricultural industry.
Although agriculture, forestry and fisheries production in terms of monetary value will decline by up to 210 billion yen, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries estimates that actual production volume can be maintained if appropriate measures are taken. In the FY2015 supplementary budget, several fund projects to strengthen agriculture were created. Moreover, the government is continuing to study measures in 12 categories, including enhancing human resources and reviewing the prices of materials and equipment used in agricultural production. In conjunction with discussions by the ruling parties, the government plans to complete a final report by this autumn.
The focus will be on strengthening the competitiveness of Japan’s exports. Exports of agricultural, forestry, and fisheries products are increasing at a pace that exceeds government targets, rising to 745.2 billion yen in 2015. If the TPP comes into force, tariffs will be removed on the export of beef to the U.S., fisheries products to Vietnam, and other items where increases in Japan’s export volume are anticipated. The government aims to raise annual exports in the agricultural sector to 1 trillion yen by 2020, and many high-ranking officials at economic ministries say, “The TPP will support the attainment of this target. We should take this opportunity to convert Japan’s agriculture into an aggressive industry.”
The government has established the “Working Group to Strengthen Japan’s Export Competitiveness,” a public-private sector council that involves various ministries, and the working group held its first meeting on Feb. 2. With the participation of representatives of logistics companies and trading firms, the working group will consider concrete issues in exporting Japanese agricultural products and measures to resolve them. The group will discuss how to develop new markets, improve the supply framework, and raise the efficiency of distribution.
On Feb. 4, the JA Group also set up the “Committee of the Export Promotion Countermeasures Headquarters” and will make an organization-wide effort to expand exports. At a press conference held that same day, Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA-Zenchu) President Choe Okuno said, “We cannot take a backward-looking position on this matter. We must send a message that we are forward-looking.”