【Editorial】 Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement poses risk of triggering chain of market liberalization (Nov. 17, 2015)


A number of multinational summit meetings are scheduled this week. We should pay particular attention to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting and the Trans-Pacific Partnership summit meeting which will be held on the sidelines of the APEC meeting. The two summit meetings will be the first to be held after the TPP member nations reached an agreement, and the meetings should be the place to discuss realistic trade liberalization on the premise of the diversity of the Asia-Pacific region. The agricultural market liberalization policies adopted under the TPP scheme are too extreme, and could lead to a large drop in the nation’s food self-sufficiency rate.

The Group of 20 summit meeting which was held in Turkey right after a series of simultaneous terror attacks in Paris was dominated by debates on terrorism and refugees rather than on economic issues. The leaders agreed to redouble efforts to prevent global spread of terrorism which would be a threat to both industrialized and developing countries.

The problem for Japan lies in a series of meetings scheduled in Asia. The ministerial meeting of 21 countries and regions under the APEC forum began on Monday, Nov. 16, and the APEC summit meeting and the TPP summit meeting are slated on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Terrorism-prevention measures will surely be discussed at the meetings following the declaration issued by the Group of 20 leaders. But the other focal issue will be specific discussions on trade liberalization within the region, as it will be the first major international conference to deal with trade issues after the TPP member nations concluded the talks in early October. Leaders of all the 12 TPP member nations will be there. As the nations are moving on with internal procedures to ratify the agreement, the leaders are expected to announce a joint statement reconfirming their determination to work on its early approval.

With the World Trade Organization not being able to function properly, we believe that mega-size regional free trade agreements have entered a new stage, in which the TPP agreement poses the risk of triggering a chain reaction of market liberalizations. Discussions to be held within the APEC forum will set a future course regarding the issue.

There is no doubt that the TPP agreement will have a great impact on future mega-size FTAs. There are also moves within the Asian region. The leaders’ meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the trilateral summit meeting of Japan, China and South Korea will be held this weekend. We have to keep watch on how the meetings will affect stagnated negotiations on the China-Japan-South Korea FTA and the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership covering East Asia. As the leaders of the APEC forum discuss the idea of creating the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, U.S. President Barack Obama might push for high level of liberalization on the basis of the TPP agreement in terms of establishing common trade rules and cutting tariffs on farm products. China is highly likely to object to it, prompting dispute over the future direction of the FTAAP.

After the TPP deal, trade negotiations are proceeding to an even more dangerous phase. The agriculture ministry has estimated the impact of the agreement on the domestic farm industry, but the predictions are limited to effects within the 12 member nations. If the whole region within the APEC forum is taken into account, market liberalizations would cause widespread, unpredictable damage to the farm sector. The latest series of summit meetings should not become an opportunity to create a chain reaction of market liberalization which would lead to a deterioration of the nation’s agriculture.

(Nov. 17, 2015)

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