[By Mika Tsutsumi, journalist]
Ever since Donald Trump became the candidate for the U.S. presidential election, we Japanese have been flooded with almost hysterical criticism of him whenever we read a newspaper or turn on the TV. No reports have been made on the actual situation or the historic background behind Trump’s policies, such as the temporary immigration ban and the building of a wall along the Mexican border, and all the coverage were based on reports critical of Trump coming from U.S. media organizations supporting Hillary Clinton.
How many times have we witnessed the phenomenon of media unanimously bashing a particular person or an organization? If we don’t look back to the past and see what was happening at that time, we would overlook the true nature of things over and over again. People who look only at Trump himself may not realize it, but what is occurring now is a trend seen not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia simultaneously.
What was behind Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was the people’s hope to break free from the control of the EU’s powerful bureaucracy and recover sovereignty. It is not a coincidence that politicians who put their country’s interests first are gaining support in France, Italy and the Philippines.
We Japanese managed to avoid the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement thanks to U.S. voters who chose to take the “America first” policy. We should also go with this trend and turn it into an opportunity to protect what is precious to us.
Making people happy
During the U.S. presidential election campaign, support for Trump was built up in rural areas which were neglected by Clinton who campaigned mainly in metropolitan areas.
In Japan, there also exist mature rural networks, namely of readers and viewers of local newspapers and TV stations, as well as member associations of agricultural cooperatives. They should be the ones to fight back against the government-led farm coops reform – an attempt to dismantle the system prioritizing cooperatives’ members by turning the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (ZEN-NOH) into a joint-stock company and breaking up farm coops’ businesses.
Organizations like the agricultural cooperatives, of which the primary goal is to improve their members’ lives and which stand impregnable against corporate giants to protect “member first” policies, are the ones which can connect with the people all over the world who are fighting to bring back what they have lost.
Questioning the validity of TPP
Just as the cooperatives’ goal is to realize the wishes of their members, the biggest task of a country’s leader should be to make the country’s people happy. And we voters have the responsibility to support such a leader.
Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting on Feb. 10, and in the process of drafting a joint statement, Washington reportedly urged Tokyo to refer to aiming for a bilateral free trade agreement. Now that Japan’s parliament has ratified the TPP agreement, Trump, a crafty businessman, is certain to start bilateral negotiations by taking advantage of the compromises made by Japan in the TPP negotiations.
We have no time to keep bashing some other country’s leader. We have to look closely into the TPP agreement, over which the Japanese mainstream media have remained virtually silent, and make its content public in order not to repeat the mistakes of the U.S.-South Korea FTA.
We shouldn’t tread the “America first” path together with Trump. Now is the time for us to create the “Japan first” policy like our fellows all over the world by spreading the values of cooperatives and rural unity, the treasure of our nation.