« Security Council to release long-delayed North Korea nuclear report | トップページ | 小6女子自殺―小さな命の叫びを聴く »

2010年11月11日 (木)

TPP方針 「平成の開国」は待ったなしだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 11, 2010)
Govt must seize chance to join TPP negotiations
TPP方針 「平成の開国」は待ったなしだ(11月10日付・読売社説)

Japan remains uncertain on whether it will join a massive free trade framework that covers the Asia-Pacific region.

The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the government's basic policy on economic partnership agreement strategies, a field in which Japan is lagging behind its competitors.

As for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was seen as a focus of the basic policy, the government ended up using vague expressions, saying that Japan would "move expeditiously to improve the domestic environment" and "initiate consultations with TPP member countries." Stopping short of declaring its intent to participate in the TPP, the government effectively put off making a final decision.

Last month, Prime Minister Naoto Kan expressed his intention to consider joining the TPP. It cannot be denied that the government's policy announcement Tuesday seemed to be a step backward from what Kan had said.

If things continue to stand as they are now, we will be unable to expect increased international competitiveness from Japanese companies.


No time for inaction

We urge the prime minister to exert his leadership to decide on Japan's participation in the TPP before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting opens this weekend in Yokohama and announce the decision to the rest of the world.

As part of the basic policy on trade liberalization, it was also agreed that the government will draw up in June next year principles to reform agriculture, a sector that will be key to Japan's future handling of the TPP. The government likely intends to decide whether to take part in the regional economic agreement around that time.

However, nine countries, including the United States and Australia, are already in negotiations on the TPP with a view to reaching an agreement in November next year. Given this schedule, it will be too late to draw up a reform plan on agriculture in June, and Japan will miss the chance to join negotiations on the agreement. The prime minister must bring forward the schedule on the agricultural reform plan, aiming to enter negotiations as soon as possible.

The government's policy on the TPP turned out to be vague as a result of confrontations, within both the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, between TPP advocates and those who oppose market liberalization for farm products. They ended up compromising on ambiguous expressions.


Is the door closing?

However, a significant difference exists between consultations for the purpose of gathering information and actual negotiations. With such vagueness in the TPP policy, Japan may be turned away at the door by other countries that are already in negotiations.

In the first place, even if Japan officially announces its participation in the negotiations, it will have to gain approval from the nine countries to join the process. In addition, Japan will be subject to strict conditions to enter negotiations, such as not exempting certain products that are currently protected with high tariffs, such as rice, from tariff abolitions.

Canada, which is reluctant to fully open its dairy product market, has not been allowed to join the TPP talks. With agricultural organizations and other parties opposing liberalization of farm products, Japan faces a high hurdle to joining the negotiations.

But if Japan does not join the TPP, the country will suffer tremendous disadvantages. The country will be excluded from the Asia-Pacific free trade framework and may lose trade and investment opportunities in the region.

A recent Yomiuri Shimbun survey showed that 60 percent of the public thinks the country should take part in TPP negotiations, a result that can be translated as indicating the public's high expectations for the TPP accord.

The prime minister is calling for "opening up the nation in the Heisei era [which began in 1989]," aiming to unite market liberalization and revitalization of the agricultural sector. With a number of difficulties lying ahead on the road to realizing those goals, the government will have to come up with concrete measures to promptly materialize them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 10, 2010)
(2010年11月10日01時55分  読売新聞)


« Security Council to release long-delayed North Korea nuclear report | トップページ | 小6女子自殺―小さな命の叫びを聴く »





« Security Council to release long-delayed North Korea nuclear report | トップページ | 小6女子自殺―小さな命の叫びを聴く »