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2014 February 26 - March 4 [ECONOMY]

Not TPP but equality and mutual benefits are necessary

February 27-March1, 2014
An unsuccessful ministerial meeting of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations held February 22-25 in Singapore shed light on Japan’s concessions made to the United States to give up protecting its five key farm products and to remove tariffs on all items.

During Japan-U.S. tariff talks, the U.S. side took an uncompromising stance toward its counterpart, pressing for the complete abolition of tariffs, including on Japan’s important agricultural products: rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products, and sugar.

The Japanese government, while promising to safeguard these agricultural goods, is now considering giving in to the U.S. arm-twisting tactics because Japan’s three major economic organizations pressured Prime Minister Abe Shinzo into meeting the U.S. demand for the sake of reaching a conclusion in the TPP negotiations even if conceding Japan’s priorities is required.

Cautious views on TPP

In the United States, trade unions close to the ruling Democrats began developing an opposition campaign fearing that a TPP-induced influx of cheap labor would deal a blow to the U.S. auto and textile industries, which would lead to a crisis in employment.

Following the unions’ action, about 40% of the senators and congresspersons sent a joint letter to President Barack Obama in opposition to a TPA bill entrusting Congress’s authority over trade matters to the president. In the letter, they expressed concern about the ongoing TPP negotiations.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet proclaimed that she will review Chile’s participation in the TPP talks.

Parliamentarians of participating countries in the TPP negotiations issued a joint letter calling on the Trade Ministers of countries involved to release the TPP draft text before any final agreement is signed in order to enable detailed scrutiny and public debate. As of February 14, legislators from nine countries signed the letter. Japanese Communist Party member of the House of Councilors Kami Tomoko is among ten Dietmembers from Japan who signed.

Professor at Auckland University in New Zealand, Jane Kelsey pointed to the fact that the general public of each TPP participating nation are barely aware of what their government is talking about through bits of information posted on Wikileaks.

In opinion polls conducted by an independent think tank in Australia, 87% of respondents seek the release of details before the free trade agreement reaches a conclusion.

On the other hand, representatives of large multinational corporations have access to TPP-related information. Names unveiled on the Internet include representatives of Cargill Incorporated, Walmart Stores Inc., General Motors, and General Electric Company.

There is no doubt that the TPP places priority on meeting the interests of multinational corporations. Professor at Colombia University in the United States, Joseph Eugene Stiglitz also regards the TPP as a system giving top priority to corporate profits, criticizing its negotiating process as undemocratic and non-transparent.

Doctor Olivier De Schutter, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, argued that the U.S. stance in terms of intellectual property rights will make it even more difficult for farmers to seize productive assets and will have harmful effects on food-related human rights issues in each country.

A research institute on sustainability in New Zealand published the results of its study showing that TPP-triggered economic benefits will come to less than one fourth of the government’s projection. This organization predicts that various deregulatory measures associated with the TPP will undermine the common good and thus will bring about unmeasurable losses.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reported that small farmers and farming communities in many countries, even now, gain little profit from free trade and that it will be large farm producers and agribusinesses that will benefit from the TPP.

For equal and mutually-beneficial economic relations

Insisting on the international competitiveness of agriculture, the Japanese government has already cut governmental support for small family farmers and taken measures to promote large-scale management in farming businesses.

Compared to the U.S. or Australian agriculture, however, the attempt to seek large corporate faming in Japan has its limits. In Japan, even large farmers have to have price guarantees, boarder measures, and subsidies from the government in order to survive. Without such treatment, it will be doubtful that they can survive.

The need for the 21st century world is democratic rules based on the principle of equality and mutual benefits, not the TPP, respecting each country’s sovereignty in the economy and food production.

It is important to strengthen the public movement calling for Japan’s withdrawal from the TPP talks in defense of the Japanese agriculture, forestry and fisheries industry, food safety, medical services, and local economies.
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