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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 October 9 - 15  > Japan formally signs humiliating trade pact with US
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2019 October 9 - 15 [ECONOMY]

Japan formally signs humiliating trade pact with US

October 11, 2019
Akahata editorial

The Abe government and the U.S. Trump administration on October 7 formally signed a bilateral trade agreement which will enter into force on January 1 next year. The Abe government is seeking Diet approval during the current session.

The Japan-U.S. trade pact has Japan remove or cut tariffs on U.S. farm products, beef, pork, and some U.S. dairy goods worth about 7.2 billion dollars (760 billion yen), which will deal a serious blow to the Japanese agriculture and livestock industries. In order to protect Japan's economic and food sovereignty, let us work together to block Diet approval of this accord!

Japan forced to make one-sided concessions

After the Trump administration decided to withdraw from the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), voices of dissatisfaction increased in the United States because of possible disadvantages U.S. farm exports to Japan could face. Therefore, President Trump pressed PM Abe to hold bilateral talks, and thus Japan-U.S. trade negotiations started. Ahead of the U.S. presidential election next year, President Trump wanted to secure an agreement advantageous to U.S. farmers. Only less than six months after the commencement of the talks with Japan in April, Trump won the agreement he wanted.

PM Abe obsessively describes the agreement as "win-win" for both countries, but taking a look at the details of the formally-signed agreement, it is obvious that Japan one-sidedly gives in to U.S. demands and that the U.S. is the sole winner. President Trump witnessed a ceremony of the signing of the accord by Japanese Ambassador to Washington Sugiyama Shinsuke and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Trump said that the accord is "a gamechanger for U.S. farmers and ranchers" and will bring major benefits to American farmers.

In fact, under this agreement, Japan will widely open its market by reducing import tariffs on U.S. beef from 38.5% to ultimately 9%. Furthermore, the agreement states, “In future negotiations, the United States will be seeking preferential treatment with respect to agricultural goods”, which means that the U.S. will pressure Japan to further reduce trade barriers.

In the trade agreement, Japan allows U.S. agricultural products to have greater access to the Japanese market while failing to require the U.S. to reduce tariffs on Japanese cars and car parts. Clearly, the Japanese side made many one-sided concessions. Regarding pending car tariffs, the agreement’s annex merely states, “Customs duties on automobile and auto parts will be subject to further negotiations with respect to the elimination of customs duties”, providing no guarantee that the U.S. will agree to the elimination of its trade barriers.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in Diet meetings insists that what Japan will grant to the U.S. in the latest bilateral agreement is not greater than what Japan planned to grant in the TPP. This is highly misleading. The TPP is, in the first place, far from harmless to Japanese farmers as the treaty was designed to serve the interests of exporting countries and multinational corporations and financial interests. In addition, under the latest trade agreement with the U.S., Japan will offer bigger than ever low-tariff import quota on U.S. beef. Given this fact, the new agreement goes beyond the TPP and is a betrayal of the interests of Japanese farmers.

Japanese farmers’ concern growing

The Japan Agricultural News’ opinion poll results, which was published on October 4, showed that 66.3% of the respondents think that the outcome of the Japan-U.S. trade negotiations will “serve the interests of the U.S.”, while only 1.1% think it will “serve the interests of Japan”. The survey also found that 78.9% think that Japan’s agriculture will come under “greater influence” from the United States. Japanese farmers’ concerns are growing.

After the new trade agreement takes effect, the two countries are set to enter the second stage of trade talks which include talks in the fields of investments and finance. This was also decided in last month’s Abe-Trump meeting. The urgent need now is to prevent the agreement from being approved in the Diet and block the Abe government from entering more comprehensive trade negotiations which will lead to a disastrous free trade agreement.
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