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Expert: End agriculture’s dependence on tariffs

Interview with professor Masayoshi Honma at Seinan Gakuin University by Shuichi Kanzaki


The recent Japan-U.S. trade agreement is worse than the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. From the start of the bilateral negotiations, Japan said it would open its agricultural market to the U.S. within the TPP standards. With this, it lost its bargaining chip. Because it took this stance, Tokyo was unable to aggressively negotiate with the U.S. to have Washington open its auto market.


Japan should have approached President Trump and insisted that “Washington rejoin the TPP if it wants Tokyo to lower its tariffs on American farm products entering Japan.” The latest trade deal gives the impression that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made concessions to President Trump, who was seeking quick results.


The standards for triggering safeguard measures (emergency import restrictions) and the import quotas for individual items in the TPP were adopted on the assumption that the U.S. would participate in the trade pact. If Japan sets different import quotas for the U.S. in the bilateral agreement, they would be significantly larger. This would in turn require the TPP import quotas to be reduced. Will Australia and New Zealand agree to such reductions? The issue remains unresolved.


Japan needs to move forward with a clear agricultural policy that does not rely on tariffs. The government should provide generous support to farmers who achieve growth through structural reform or who produce superior local specialties. Offering subsidies in a reckless and indiscriminate manner is ineffective. Farmers need to strengthen their businesses by setting their sights on the world 20 or 30 years from now when tariffs no longer exist.

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