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Gist of interpellations at Upper House special committee on TPP, Nov. 15

Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors special committee on the TPP on Nov. 15:

 

East Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

 

Masahisa Sato (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP]): If the TPP agreement does not enter into force, countries which are planning to join the TPP might lean toward the RCEP.

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: If the TPP fails to move forward, these countries will definitely move toward the RCEP. China will have the biggest GDP [among its members]. Then, what will happen to strict regulation of state-owned enterprises and protection of intellectual property? The TPP must serve as the model. Japan should communicate to the international community the goal and significance of the TPP. It should also convey messages to the U.S. in order to change the current trend of protectionism.

 

Masashi Nakano (Party for Japanese Kokoro): If China agrees to abide by the TPP rules and asks to become a member, shouldn’t it be accepted as a member after appropriate screening procedures?

 

Abe: We will welcome China’s participation, but it must meet the requirements. It will have to share our values. I would like to propagate the TPP rules as a model since we exerted so much effort to make them.

 

Summit meetings

 

Sato: Your meeting with (President-elect) Trump on Nov. 17 and the summit meeting with the other TPP participants will be very important.

 

Abe: I would like to talk (to Trump) about my thoughts on the importance of free trade. At the summit meeting of TPP leaders, I will confirm our intent to effectuate the TPP agreement and reach a consensus on completing the domestic legal procedures promptly.

 

Antonio Inoki (Independents Club): Was the outcome of the U.S. presidential election within the scope of your expectations?

 

Abe: Anything is possible in the world of politics. I think the important thing is we need to be able to deal with it.

 

Reconsider the TPP

 

Masayo Tanabe (Democratic Party [DP]): The situation has changed with Mr. Trump’s victory. You should take a step back and think seriously about national interest.

 

Abe: The substance of the basic TPP agreement has not changed. I am confident that ratification of the TPP accord is in Japan’s national interest and in the interest of the Asia-Pacific region. We should continue to deliberate on this issue calmly.

 

Akira Ishii (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): The U.S. Congress probably will not ratify the accord.

 

Abe: Japan and the U.S.’s leading the efforts to build a free and fair economic zone is of great significance to regional economic development and security. The New Zealand parliament has ratified the TPP accord.

 

Need for the TPP

 

Katsunori Takahashi (LDP): Did you make the decision on joining the TPP out of a sense of responsibility for Japan’s future?

 

Abe: Tax revenues will not increase unless there is economic growth. Then, we will not be able to deal with the natural increase in social security spending. For this reason, it is necessary to build a fair and free economic zone in Asia and the Pacific.

 

Disparity

 

Masaaki Taniai (Komeito): There is concern that the TPP will only benefit some rich people and big companies, resulting in wider social disparity.

 

Abe: It is important to set up a system to prevent the concentration of wealth. For example, as automakers increase their exports and make more profit, we are asking them to rectify their transaction practices with sub-contractors. We will continue to work on this.

 

Intervention of trade groups

 

Tomoko Kami (Japanese Communist Party): Non-government entities in the TPP nations are allowed to intervene in the review of the TPP. There is no guarantee that the tariff rates agreed upon will be implemented.

 

Economic Revitalization Minister Nobuteru Ishihara: We are aware that the U.S. pork producers’ organization is lobbying fiercely, but trade groups cannot influence the U.S. government and make the other countries consent to revising the TPP accord.

 

GM (genetically modified) food

 

Mizuho Fukushima (Social Democratic Party): The European Union (EU) requires the labeling of genetically modified ingredients when exporting vinegar. Japan should also adopt the EU standards.

 

Consumer Affairs Minister Jun Matsumoto: We are currently conducting the necessary studies to change the system.

 

House of Representatives vote

 

Takanori Kawai (DP): It appears that even ruling party members think that the vote at the Lower House plenary session was a mess.

 

Abe: It is up to the Diet or the Lower House to decide how they conduct their deliberations and voting.

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