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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 April 17 - 23  > Abe’s submissive stance in trade talks with US will lead Japan into economic ruin
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2019 April 17 - 23 [ECONOMY]

Abe’s submissive stance in trade talks with US will lead Japan into economic ruin

April 19, 2019

Akahata editorial

The first-round meeting of trade talks between Japan and the U.S. was held in Washington on April 15 and 16 local time. Reportedly, the main agenda of the meeting was to set a framework for negotiations, including the range of items to be discussed.

The U.S. Trump administration insisted that in addition to the reduction in and elimination of tariffs on agricultural products and other goods, the new trade talks should deal with services. The U.S. evidently aims to conclude a comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement (FTA). The Trump administration and the U.S. agricultural industry proclaim that with a new trade agreement, they will seek to open up the Japanese market to America at least as wide as Japan would have done if the U.S. had not withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. Japan should immediately pull out of the trade talks which will cause irreparable harm to the country.

Japan overly willing to make concessions to US

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and President Donald Trump at a summit meeting in September 2018 agreed to start negotiations for a new trade agreement. Since then, the Abe government has explained to Japanese citizens that the new talks will be for a “Trade Agreement on Goods (TAG)” in a bid to evade domestic criticism. The U.S. side, however, maintains that the two nations will discuss an FTA. In fact, the Trump administration in December 2018 released a summary of objectives of U.S.-Japan trade agreement negotiations which contains a list of 22 negotiation items, including agricultural goods, automobiles, financial services, and currency, expressing its clear intent to win concessions in a new agreement at a level beyond those obtained in the TPP talks with Japan.

After assuming office in 2017, President Trump unilaterally decided on the U.S. withdrawal from the TPP. The Abe government attempted in vain to persuade the U.S. back into the 12-member multilateral pact. As a result, the remaining 11 countries concluded the TPP11 pact without the U.S. In addition to the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, the Abe government accepted the launch of Japan-U.S. talks on a new trade deal. This clearly indicates the extreme weakness in Abe’s economic diplomacy.

In the first meeting of trade negotiations which Economic Revitalization Minister Motegi Toshimitsu had with a U.S. counterpart, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, as expected, strongly insisted that not only agricultural products and automobiles but also services and finance should be included in bilateral talks. Both sides agreed to discuss "digital" trade such as e-commerce as an item in trade negotiations. They left the door open for future talks in regard to free access to markets of wider services including exchange markets as called for by the United States. Regarding the currency issue, the respective finance ministers will be in charge. The Japanese economy minister, Motegi said that tariff-cuts on farm goods will "not exceed" TPP liberalization levels, although there is no guarantee that he keeps his word. The Abe government will most likely servilely give in to U.S. demands.

With the TPP11 and the Japan-EU EPA already coming into effect, imports of beef, pork, and dairy products from Australia, New Zealand, and European countries are surging in Japan, inflicting severe damage to Japan's farming and livestock industries. Yet another expansion of imports in agricultural products and liberalization of the services market following the Japan-U.S. negotiations will undoubtedly negatively affect both people's livelihoods as well as the Japanese economy. Such bilateral talks, which will lead to "ruining the country", should be terminated immediately.

'America First' negotiations

The TPP in the first place is rules on free trade and investment in favor of internationally-competitive economic powers and giant multinationals. Following the inauguration of the Trump administration, the United States, based on Trump's "America First" policy, withdrew from the TPP and embarked on bilateral trade negotiations in order to force concessions more advantageous to the U.S. For Japan, to continue negotiating with the U.S. and making further concessions is placing not only the economy but the social fabric of Japan at risk.

Past related articles:
> JCP Kasai opposes bill to approve Japan-EU EPA [November 21, 2018]
> Abe gov't refers to new trade talks with US as TAG, not FTA [October 12, 2018]
> Abe accepts Trump’s demand for trade talks leading to FTA [April 20, 2018]
> New framework for bilateral talks will pave way for US interference in Japanese economy [February 14, 2017]
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