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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 March 30 - April 5  > Tokyo Univ. professor points out problems with TPP
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2016 March 30 - April 5 [ECONOMY]

Tokyo Univ. professor points out problems with TPP

April 3, 2016
The Abe government has been expressing its hope to boost momentum toward the early entry into force of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact. Suzuki Nobuhiro, a professor in agricultural economics of the University of Tokyo, questions the government policy of going ahead with the TPP ratification without adequate discussion although the pact greatly damages Japan’s national interests. Akahata on April 3 ran an interview with Prof. Suzuki regarding TPP issues. The gist of his interview is as follows:

In the U.S. presidential campaign, major candidates running for both the Republican and Democratic presidential nominations are in opposition to the TPP. The Republican candidates show reluctance to the deal from the perspective of “influence peddling”. The mouthpiece of pharmaceutical firms, the Republican Party, has a motive to sell other countries expensive drugs by extending the protection term of U.S. patents. The Democratic candidates also stand against the free trade deal as the party ostensibly wants to protect the environment and most importantly its supposed “voting blocs”, working-class citizens. The TPP allows an inflow of cheap labor from outside, which will restrain a wage increase for U.S. workers. In contrast, Japan is going headlong into deciding to ratify the multilateral free-trade accord with neither adequate Diet deliberations nor national discussions.

Japan should seriously consider what kind of impacts the TPP will bring about and what kind of countermeasures Japan should prepare for the inevitable negative impacts. Nevertheless, without presenting any evidence, the government of Japan has been insisting that it will take domestic measures to heighten productivity so that Japan’s primary industries of agriculture, forestry and fisheries can remain unaffected by the TPP. Japan is putting the cart before the horse.

What the public in Japan should be aware of in particular is the issue regarding food safety. The Abe government has been explaining that the TPP abides by international food-safety standards. The problem, however, lies with the standards themselves as they allow the trading of genetically-modified (GMO) products. Japan at present requires compulsory labeling of GMO foods. Japan’s participation in the TPP will prevent Japanese consumers from knowing if the food items they buy contain GMOs or not. Crops tainted by presently banned pesticides and postharvest chemicals will be also imported to Japan. To ratify the TPP means Japan’s abandonment of its strict food-safety standards.

Imported foods may be cheaper than domestically-grown products, but the former may become more costly given their potential risks associated with growth promoters and GMOs. Seeking cheaper farm products or only short-term gains in food may lead to possible health damages. Are the Japanese people ready for that? Both the people and the Diet should discuss more seriously and understand that the protection of the country’s agriculture is equal to promoting food policy that protects people’s health and lives.

There is no doubt that putting an end to the Abe regime and achieving people-oriented politics will ensure the safety of Japanese foods.

Past related articles:
> Abe gov’t puts forth TPP-related bills [March 9, 2016]
> PM speech on TPP cannot mask risky nature of free trade [January 25, 2016]
> Gov’t releases full text of negotiated TPP accord in Japanese translation following JCP request [January 9, 2016]
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