Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors special committee on the TPP on Nov. 24:
Meeting with Trump
Shuji Yamada (Liberal Democratic Party): You had a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump. Do you think there is still any room to persuade him?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: With Mr. Trump’s announcement of the U.S.’s withdrawal from the TPP, the situation is certainly tough. However, our intent to take the lead in the world in deliberating and ratifying the TPP accord remains absolutely unchanged.
Renho (Democratic Party [DP]): What made you confident that Mr. Trump is trustworthy?
Abe: I greatly appreciated his show of continued respect for the incumbent President and I thought he is trustworthy. The important thing is whether this relationship can be maintained and whether he is trustworthy as a person.
Renho: Are you sure that if Japan ratifies the TPP agreement, Mr. Trump will revoke his decision to withdraw from the TPP?
Abe: I am not sure about that. However, I believe Japan should not withdraw from the TPP and should serve as the bulwark against the rise of protectionism.
Mitsuo Gima (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): Mr. Trump announced the U.S.’s withdrawal right after you said the TPP would be meaningless without the U.S.’s participation. It is your wishful thinking that you will be able to build a relationship of trust (with Trump).
Abe: Mr. Trump’s statement was truly regrettable. It is a matter of course for national leaders to assert their countries’ national interest. I respect him for that.
Kenzo Fujisue (DP): I ask that you work not only on multilateral negotiations, but also on bilateral agreements.
Abe: With regard to the U.S., we would like to persevere in discussions not on a bilateral accord but on the TPP.
Masashi Nakano (Party for Japanese Kokoro): An advisory body to the U.S. Congress reports that if the TPP agreement fails to enter into force while the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) accord takes effect, this would bring 9.6 trillion yen worth of economic benefits to China. Why don’t you use this to persuade Mr. Trump?
Abe: It would be rude (to Trump) to use a report by the Congressional advisory body.
Takahiro Ishikawa (Komeito): How will the TPP benefit Japan?
Abe: New rules, such as stricter law enforcement on counterfeit goods, will be made. These will open up business opportunities for small and mid-sized companies and subcontractors. The elimination of tariffs will enable consumers to buy cheaper products, and this will stimulate consumption.
TPP-related budget allocations
Shigefumi Matsuzawa (Independents Club): Since the effectuation of the TPP accord is now hopeless, it is necessary to conduct a comprehensive review of the budget allocations for TPP measures.
Abe: Allocations to help agriculture and small and mid-sized enterprises enhance competitiveness and convert to export operations will be necessary regardless of whether the TPP accord enters into effect or not.
Matsuzawa: The necessary allocations for agricultural structural reform and other purposes and subsidies that will become unnecessary should be sorted out.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yuji Yamamoto: We are currently reviewing the budget. Allocations to ensure stable income will only be included after TPP effectuation.
Tomoko Tamura (Japanese Communist Party): If the U.S. pharmaceutical companies present their demands under the TPP, this will also push up drug prices in Japan, which will increase the financial burden for medical services and insurance.
Abe: The TPP accord does not contain any provisions that will allow foreign companies to interfere with the setting of drug prices or influence the public medical insurance systems in any manner.
Mizuho Fukushima (Social Democratic Party): The TPP accord will result in sloppy quarantine inspections, since it will aim at permitting cargo to be claimed within 48 hours of arrival.
Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki: Permitting the claiming of cargo that does not meet requirements beyond 48 hours of arrival will not constitute violation [of the TPP accord]. Appropriate supervision and guidance will be implemented in response to the possible increase in imported food items.