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ECONOMY > Agriculture

Upper, Lower House ag committees adopt resolution on EPA

  • December 14, 2016
  • , Japan Agricultural News , p. 3
  • JMH Translation

With regard to negotiations between Japan and the EU on an Economic Partnership Agreement, the Committees on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors adopted on Dec. 13 a resolution calling for the government to take border measures including tariffs to maintain the sustainability of critical domestic products such as pork and dairy products. As the government aims to conclude a general agreement by the end of this year, farmers are increasingly concerned that the administration will move forward with significant market liberalization. The resolution also urged the government not to negotiate for the sake of meeting the deadline for negotiations.

 

In connection with retail prices of livestock products for fiscal 2017 to be decided within this week, both the ruling and opposition parties adopted the resolution with a majority vote at sessions of the agricultural committees of the two chambers held on Dec. 13. The resolution also referred to the ongoing Japan-EU EPA negotiations.

 

Regarding the EPA negotiations between Japan and the EU, the resolution called for the government “not to undermine national interests by focusing more on meeting the deadline than discussing matters of importance in the negotiations.” In particular, the resolution urged “the government to take necessary border measures to ensure the sustainability of critical agricultural products such as pork and dairy products.”

 

Japan’s and the EU’s chief negotiators have begun discussions this week. Depending on the progress in the discussions, the government intends to hold a bilateral ministerial meeting late this month. Without hammering out all the details, the government eyes a “general conclusion” to ensure discussions are on track toward trade liberalization. “We have reached an agreement on points of contention about basic elements of the negotiations that require a political decision,” explained Parliamentary Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Motome Takisawa at a session of the Upper House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, referring to the general agreement.

 

The EU demands that Japan significantly liberalize markets for critical products including cheese and pork. For some products, the union even urges greater market liberalization than Tokyo agreed to in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which makes the negotiations difficult. “We will steadfastly negotiate with the EU by taking into consideration trade, production, and distribution of sensitive products,” emphasized Minister of Agricultural Minister Yuji Yamamoto.

 

As for the remark made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a session of the previous Diet session that “Japan is ready anytime to conclude trade rules of as high a standard as those of the TPP,” Yamamoto explained that Abe had meant trade rules applicable to such fields as labor and environment, not agriculture.” The minister answered questions from Kazuya Hatayama, a member of the Japanese Communist Party, at a session of the Lower House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

 

With regard to the unit price and the number of recipients of the subsidy for processed raw milk producers, it was decided in the resolution that the price and the number should be “appropriately determined to fairly reflect farmers’ management efforts and ensure their sustainability.” As for a review of the subsidy, the resolution called for sufficient coordination with interested parties, keeping in mind the importance of  the designated raw milk producers group fulfilling its functions.

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