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Editorial: Parties must deepen Diet debate by taking national interest into account

  • October 11, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 7:35 p.m.
  • English Press

It is imperative to discuss domestic and foreign issues from a comprehensive perspective with a view to protecting the national interest.


Full-scale debate between the ruling and opposition parties has begun at the House of Representatives Budget Committee. A focal point was a new trade agreement concluded by Japan and the United States.


While tariffs on agricultural imports from the United States were lowered, it was agreed not to invoke additional tariffs on U.S. automobile imports from Japan.


Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, denounced the deal, saying that it “amounts to Japan alone conceding on tariffs on agricultural imports.” He also pointed out that the prevention of additional tariffs was not documented in the agreement. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refuted this, saying: “It was confirmed during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. It represents a serious promise.”


The accord was reached after holding repeated negotiations right up until the last moment with the Trump administration, which champions an “America First” policy. The government needs to carefully explain in detail the content and significance of the agreement, thereby seeking the people’s understanding of the trade deal.


Promoting free and open trade serves Japan’s national interest. It is essential to exchange views on trade policies from a broad perspective, including on how to draw the United States back to an international cooperation framework.


During an interpellation session, Tamaki also brought up a recent incident in which a patrol vessel of the Fisheries Agency and a North Korean fishing boat collided. He cast doubt on the government’s act of returning rescued North Korean fishermen without questioning them over the incident.


Abe explained that this is because it could not be confirmed that there had been illegal fishing.


Focus on key issues


To ensure stability in this region of the world, it is indispensable to eliminate North Korean threats. How can U.S.-North Korea talks be backed up and denuclearization realized? The opposition parties should develop their argument by delving into how foreign measures will be taken vis-a-vis Pyongyang.


In regard to constitutional revision, Tamaki insisted that the Liberal Democratic Party drop its proposal to add the legal grounds for the Self-Defense Forces by amending Article 9. Abe did not go beyond saying that “it is important to stipulate the SDF in Article 9.”


It is highly significant to stipulate the SDF, which is tasked with ensuring national security, in the nation’s top law, thereby sweeping away the argument that the SDF is unconstitutional. Individual parties are called on to discuss what provision should be stipulated by presenting their views at the commissions on the Constitution in both houses of the Diet based on the LDP proposal.


The opposition parties also took time to raise the scandal involving executives of Kansai Electric Power Co. who received money and goods. They condemned the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, saying that it did not fulfill its responsibility as a supervisory office.


Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Isshu Sugawara responded by saying: “Utility firms undertake business that has extremely high public interest. So we’ll supervise them strictly.”

KEPCO plans to establish a third-party panel to reinvestigate, among other things, what actually happened in the scandal involving the receipt of money and goods. The Diet should deepen debate on electric power policy without concentrating only on the scandal.

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