Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors special committee on the TPP on Dec. 5:
Economic growth strategy
Takeshi Ninoyu (Liberal Democratic Party): What is Japan’s economic growth strategy under the free trade system?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Cultivating the markets in Asia and the Pacific, where the population is growing, will be the way for the Japanese economy to grow.
Significance of the TPP
Sayaka Sasaki (Komeito): It is important for Japan to be consistent in its efforts to effectuate the TPP agreement.
Abe: Japan’s discontinuation of its efforts will mean inaction in the face of the rise of protectionism. It is important to make rules that will serve as a model for the international community.
Mitsuko Ishii (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): Why is it necessary to continue deliberations even though Mr. Trump has announced the U.S.’s withdrawal from the TPP?
Abe: We would like to demonstrate through the deliberations that the TPP is the right direction for the international community.
Ishii: It is important to have the Asian countries, including China, adopt the TPP rules in the future.
Abe: It is true that there is an opinion that China’s state-owned enterprises may distort free and fair competition among companies.
Taro Yamamoto (Liberal Party): You claim that even if the TPP accord fails to enter into force, it will still serve as the fundamental framework of international trade. Which provisions are you referring to?
Abe: For example, the provisions on the protection of intellectual property and competition rules governing state-owned enterprises. They will point to a certain direction in the process of developing the East Asian Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Masashi Nakano (Party for Japanese Kokoro): It is feared that China will lead the process of trade rule-making in Asia-Pacific if the TPP fails to move forward.
Abe: The TPP is our goal. The participating nations’ completing their domestic procedures will also influence the RCEP.
Mitsuru Sakurai (Democratic Party [DP]): What benefits will the TPP offer if the U.S. withdraws?
Economic Revitalization Minister Nobuteru Ishihara: I have no statistics on what will happen if the U.S. withdraws. However, since the U.S. accounts for 50% of Japan’s overall trade with the TPP nations, it is safe to assume that the economic benefits that we have been talking about will also be reduced by around half.
Ryuhei Kawada (DP): The government’s analysis of the TPP’s economic benefits is based on unrealistic assumptions, such as full employment. It is also different from the estimates of Tufts University.
Ishihara: We work from completely different assumptions in the first place.
Kawada: The government is rushing to ratify the TPP accord, but will it be able to protect the people’s health and lives?
Abe: If Japan ends its deliberations now, that will be the end of the TPP. This trade accord will not endanger the people’s health and lives.
Sasaki: I understand that the TPP will require changes in the system of universal medical insurance.
Abe: The TPP agreement does not contain provisions that will affect Japan’s public medical insurance systems, such as foreign companies interfering with the setting of drug prices or lifting the ban on combined insurance-covered and private treatments.
Kuniko Koda (Independents Club): Will Japan be able to win if it is sued under the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions?
Ishihara: We do not foresee that Japan will lose lawsuits filed by foreign investors. (Slightly abridged)