As many as 7,000 people gathered in Sapporo, Hokkaido, on Thursday, July 25, to stage a protest rally against Japan’s entry in to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks, and pledged to strive to protect the nation’s largest agricultural region.
The protest rally, held by 4 agricultural groups including the Hokkaido Prefectural Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JA Hokkaido Chuokai), was supported by 43 groups such as the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, the Hokkaido Economic Federation, the Hokkaido Consumers’ Association and the Hokkaido Medical Association.
“Hokkaido boasts a food self-sufficiency rate of nearly 200% and is an important agricultural region which supports the Japanese people’s lives,” said JA Hokkaido Chuokai Chairman Toshiaki Tobita. “But the TPP agreement would prevent us from utilizing our abilities.”
Tobita asked Diet members elected from Hokkaido who attended the rally to work on protecting the region’s economy and agriculture.
Kiyoshi Nagase, chairman of the Hokkaido Medical Association, expressed concern over the possibility of the TPP talks having an adverse effect on the national health care system. “We will not be at beck and call of the United States,” Nagase said. “We will strive to the bitter end to protect the nation’s system.”
Tomoko Hashimoto who heads the Hokkaido Consumers’ Association stressed that the association will think and act together with other groups to prevent relaxation of standards for pesticide residues and food additives.
Hiroshi Imazu, a lower house member of the Diet who is responsible for TPP issues at the Hokkaido branch of the Liberal Democratic Party, said he humbly accepts criticisms for letting the government join the TPP talks and pledged to make utmost efforts to protect the nation’s agriculture, rural villages and food safety and security.
Katsuya Ogawa, an upper house member of the Democratic Party of Japan, called on participants to tell other people, who do not recognize the dangers of the TPP talks, the risks of the TPP agreement devastating the safety of food, the nation’s food self-sufficiency and Hokkaido’s economy. “Let us make this movement a challenge to make the government withdraw from the talks,” Ogawa said. Similar comments were made by the members of the New Komeito party, the Japanese Communist Party and the New Party Daichi (Shinto Daichi).
“We should protect the smiles of people sitting around the table with safe farm produce,” said Yoshitsugu Kuroda, chairman of JA Youth Hokkaido. “Most importantly, we should not let the TPP pact infringe the national sovereignty.”
Following the rally, protesters paraded through the main streets of Sapporo, holding banners and boards with phrases expressing anger and anxiety towards the free-trade pact.
(July 26, 2013)