The Tokyo Shimbun interviewed Takumi Sakuyama, an associate professor at Meiji University and a former negotiator who took part in prior consultations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, on a bill to ratify the TPP and a resolution that the Diet adopted in 2013.
Q: What is the most important item in the eight-point Diet resolution?
Sakuyama: It’s the first provision on (the exemption of) the five sensitive trade areas. When examining the 594 products according to such categories as polished rice and brown rice, it becomes clear that tariff rates will not be maintained on any products. In other words, there are no “exceptions.” The resolution has not been observed at all.
Q: The resolution stipulates that the government should withdraw if tariff exemptions cannot be secured.
Sakuyama: The conditions for joining the TPP negotiations include “eliminating tariffs on more than 95% of traded goods” and “no exceptions are allowed,” but the government concealed this when it joined the negotiations. It also failed to withdraw from the negotiations.
Q: As a negotiator, did you hear about or see these conditions?
Sakuyama: I heard about and saw them during the consultations on participating in the negotiations. The conditions to participate in the TPP were mandatory. The government negotiated with its hands tied. Of the five trade sensitivities, it gave up on products for which tariff exemption was inevitable. In fact, as a result of the negotiations, Japan’s tariff removal rate came to 95.1%.
Q: The TPP will be ratified without observing these important provisions in the Diet resolution.
Sakuyama: This will become a precedent for enacting legislation in disregard of a Diet resolution and undermining Diet resolutions in the future.
Q: Did the resolution help protect food safety and security?
Sakuyama: It does not provide for requiring the government to change the system. The existing system will surely be kept intact.
Q: How about the resolution with regard to the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions?
Sakuyama: There are many provisions to prevent the abuse of ISDS. These make it difficult for investors who want to use it to file a suit.
Q: Why does the Japanese government want to ratify the TPP even though the chances of the TPP going into force are slim?
Sakuyama: The government wants to demonstrate Japan’s commitment to trade liberalization.