The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee of the Upper House adopted a resolution by a majority Thursday, April 18, approving the Japanese government’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks. The resolution calls on the government to negotiate for exceptions – especially in the key areas of rice, wheat, beef, pork, dairy products and sugar – from tariff eliminations in the TPP discussions. It also asks the government to walk away from the negotiating table if it fails to persuade other TPP members to allow existing tariffs on the key products.
The Lower House Committee for the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also decided the same day to adopt a resolution concerning participation in the TPP talks on Friday, April 19. The resolution was scheduled to be put on the table on Wednesday, April 17, but the Diet meeting was called off that day because the opposition parties refused to deliberate the bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law to reduce the number of single-seat constituencies with the aim of reducing the disparity of vote value.
The resolution at the Upper House concerning the TPP was jointly submitted by the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito, The Democratic Party of Japan, People’s Life First and Green Breeze Party. It is intended to make clear the Diet’s stance, before TPP member countries approve of Japan’s participation, that tariffs on key products must not be eliminated. Trade agreements do not go into effect without the ratification by the Diet.
The Upper House resolution expressed concerns that the TPP will give a serious damage on the domestic agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector and rural districts, as well as having adverse effects on people’s lives. It also noted that national consensus is not yet created on Japan’s participation in the TPP, saying that people should be given sufficient information and chances for more discussion. It stressed that the Diet will not accept any tariff elimination on key products, including gradual reduction of tariffs over 10 years.
The ruling and opposition parties made adjustments in the resolution before approval, in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement that Japan will join the TPP talks. Japanese Communist Party and Your Party refused to approve the resolution, because Communist Party said it is opposed to joining the TPP itself, and Your Party said it is opposed to the two phrases in the resolution, which says that the Diet will not accept even gradual elimination of tariffs and that Japan will withdraw from negotiations if tariffs on key products are not allowed.
(April 19, 2013)