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Gist of interpellations at Upper House special committee on TPP, Nov. 14

Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors special committee on the TPP on Nov. 14:

 

Effectuation of TPP accord

 

Shuji Yamada (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): There are growing concerns about the effectuation of the TPP agreement in light of Mr. Trump’s election as U.S. president. How would you promote Japan’s trade policy?

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: It is precisely during this time of power transition in the U.S. that Japan should take the lead in achieving the early effectuation of the TPP accord. We will take every opportunity to urge the U.S. and the other signatories to complete their domestic legal procedures.

 

Shingo Miyake (LDP): You will be meeting with Mr. Trump in three days. What do you think of this meeting?

 

Abe: I would like to talk about my thoughts on free trade. I intend to engage in candid discussions, not only on trade, but also on security and other issues. The Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japan’s security, foreign, and economic policies. I would like to build a relationship of trust through in-depth discussions.

 

Katsuya Ogawa (Democratic Party [DP]): It is now widely accepted that the possibility of the U.S. ratifying the TPP agreement for the accord to take effect is very slim.

 

Abe: To be honest, I do understand that the situation has become extremely tough. However, this definitely does not mean the end [of the TPP agreement]. It is precisely at a time when protectionism is spreading that it is important to speak up on the necessity and significance of the agreement and demonstrate Japan’s determination.

 

Mikishi Daimon (Japanese Communist Party): The majority of the U.S. public is opposed to the TPP. Shouldn’t Japan just withdraw from the TPP without hesitation?

 

Abe: Upholding and developing free and fair trade is the source of world economic growth. I would like to reaffirm at the TPP leaders’ meeting in Peru that we will strive for the early effectuation of the agreement.

 

Takashi Ezaki (DP): There is criticism that trade agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) take away jobs and lead to competition between the lower classes and workers from countries paying low wages.

 

Abe: The TPP agreement provides for protecting working conditions. It is different with past agreements; it will not impose low wages.

 

Other economic partnerships

 

Masayoshi Hamada (Komeito): The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) should be realized at an early date in order to build momentum for the promotion of the TPP in the U.S.

 

Abe: The Obama administration will work hard on the TPP up to the end. A TPP leaders’ meeting will be held on the sidelines of the APEC Summit. We would like to convey a strong message to the world on the significance of the TPP. It is possible that the U.S. may come to think that it must not be left behind.

 

Bilateral agreement

 

Kuniko Koda (Independents Club): With the TPP’s prospects being uncertain, how would you respond if the U.S. proposes a bilateral agreement?

 

Abe: At this point, we are taking various opportunities to urge the U.S. to ratify the TPP agreement, which has merits that bilateral agreements do not offer. I will take advantage of the TPP leaders’ meeting on the sidelines of the APEC Summit in Peru to call on the 12 signatories to complete their domestic procedures.

 

Explanation to the people

 

Toranosuke Katayama (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): The people do not really understand (the TPP). (The government) should exert greater efforts to explain to the people.

 

Abe: It is necessary and important to win the people’s understanding. There are indeed difficult issues in various sectors. We will offer meticulous explanations by sector.

 

ISDS

 

Taro Yamamoto (Liberal Party): Will Japan not be sued under the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions?

 

Economic Revitalization Minister Nobuteru Ishihara: Japan will not adopt measures violating the TPP agreement, so I believe that it is unlikely for Japan to be sued by foreign companies in the future.

 

Rice export strategy

 

Masamune Wada (Party for Japanese Kokoro): Once the TPP accord takes effect, tariff on Japanese rice will be reduced. Vietnam will eliminate tariff altogether once the agreement takes effect. What is Japan’s export strategy after effectuation?

 

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yuji Yamamoto: Vietnam is increasing its rice imports. Tariff abolition will be a great boost for Japan’s exports.

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