Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a press conference on Friday, Sept. 25, ahead of the closing of the Diet session two days after, and reaffirmed the significance of the security legislation which was passed in the Diet after heated arguments. Various challenges for the future were left in the Diet session, where many important bills were passed, including the one to revise the Agricultural Co-operative Society Law.
Abe is scheduled to visit the United States starting Saturday, Sept. 26. Farmers are worried that his next target after the security laws would be to forcibly conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks. We strongly call on the government to follow the Diet resolutions demanding protection of sensitive farm products.
Looking back at the latest Diet session, a senior official of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan said it was a Diet session where the ruling bloc rammed through bills which would change things for the worse. The official was referring to the security bills, the agricultural co-ops reform bill and the bill to amend the worker dispatch law, all of which are closely linked to the people’s lives. The fact that the bills were passed with numerous supplementary resolutions shows how much they were flawed and conflicted.
In an opinion article published in The Japan Agricultural News, economic critic Katsuto Uchihashi expressed anger over the deterioration of Japan’s parliamentary democracy which could put the nation in danger. We totally agree with him. Uchihashi pointed out that the increasing power of the prime minister’s office has destroyed opposition forces. He gave as an example the move to dissolve the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu) which has been strongly opposed to the TPP scheme. The revised Agricultural Co-operative Society Law, which represents the first major agricultural co-ops reform in 60 years, will review the structure of the Japanese agricultural co-ops (JA) group centered on JA-Zenchu, take away the union’s leadership role and turn it into a general incorporated association. What we are facing is an extremely serious situation.
For whom and for what is the agricultural co-ops reform taking place? How can the reform bring about an increase in farmers’ income and revitalization of rural areas? We believe that the revised law goes in the opposite direction. We fear that it could lead to restriction of non-farmer members’ use of JAs’ services. That would mean a denial of JAs’ comprehensive services that function as an infrastructure in regional areas. Even though we heard the prime minister explain the objectives of the revised law many times in the Diet sessions, our concerns never went away. And the bill passed the Diet to become a law, leaving many pending issues unresolved.
Now that the security legislation has been successfully passed in the Diet, farmers are concerned Abe’s administration will move toward concluding the TPP negotiations as the next goal.
Abe is slated to fly to New York to attend the United Nations general assembly. On the sidelines of the assembly, he will hold talks with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden early next week. As well as discussing security issues including China’s development in the East and South China Seas, they are expected to agree to push ahead with the TPP talks.
TPP member nations’ chief negotiators will restart talks on Saturday, Sept. 26, in Atlanta. On Wednesday, Sept. 30, ministers of the 12 member nations will gather again for the first time since their previous meeting in Hawaii in July.
Security legislation and the TPP talks, both of which the government has failed to gain public understanding, have many things in common. One is that both are directly linked to people’s lives. Moreover, both have faced major public opposition, as well as concerns from numerous experts over their constitutionality. Most of all, deepening Japan-U.S. alliance lies behind both issues.
The TPP talks are increasingly becoming an anti-China economic alliance led by Japan and the U.S. However, the Diet resolutions to protect key farm items are the promise made to the Japanese people. We should watch closely with deep concerns how the Abe administration will negotiate in the TPP talks.
(Sept. 26, 2015)