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2012年9月 8日 (土)

TPP交渉 参加表明の見送りを憂慮する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 8, 2012)
Japan must swiftly overcome its internal deadlock on TPP
TPP交渉 参加表明の見送りを憂慮する(9月7日付・読売社説)

How much longer does the government intend to put off participating in negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade accord? It should hasten a political decision on the matter.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will likely put off expressing Japan's intention to take part in the TPP talks during the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum scheduled to start Saturday in Vladivostok.

At the APEC meeting last November in Hawaii, Noda announced Japan's policy of starting discussions with countries involved toward Japan's participation in the TPP talks. Since then, Japan has held negotiations with the nine other countries, including the United States.

Initially, Noda wanted to express Japan's intention to participate in the talks at the upcoming meeting in Russia. However, as some within the Democratic Party of Japan and agricultural organizations oppose Japan participating in the TPP talks, there has been little progress in reaching a consensus within the government and the ruling DPJ.

Wary that his power base might be shaken if he announced Japan's participation in the TPP talks, Noda has apparently had second thoughts about doing so.


Window of opportunity closing

Considering the required period for giving notice to the U.S. Congress, it is reckoned that Japan must express its intention to participate in the talks no later than this month if it is to start negotiating with the nine other countries this year. Thus, there is no longer any hope that Japan can take part in the talks in 2012. This is a worrisome development.

Meanwhile, it has become certain that Canada and Mexico will join the negotiations, bringing the participating countries to 11 and leaving slow-going Japan further behind.

U.S. President Barack Obama hopes to see the TPP negotiations concluded by the end of the year. Although that appears unlikely, the 11 participating countries are expected to hold talks in September and December, bringing the negotiations into full swing over the next year.

As things stand now, final-stage negotiations over such issues as eliminating or lowering tariffs and working out rules on trade and investment will accelerate without Japan. Should Japan take part in the talks only after the negotiations are settled, it will be unable to complain if it is subjected to unfavorable rules.

With domestic demand expected to contract due to a declining population, Japan needs to tap the vitality of other Asian countries through an expansion of free trade.

To use the TPP as a lever in this effort, it is essential for Japan to get involved in the TPP talks from the stage of formulating rules under the trade accord.


Hollowing-out may worsen

It is only reasonable for the business sector to criticize the government on that score. If the current situation continues, with businesses unable to enjoy the merits of economic partnership with other countries, companies will shift more of their production bases abroad, thus accelerating the hollowing-out of industry at home.

Prospects for the negotiations on a bilateral economic partnership agreement with South Korea and an envisaged Japan-South Korea-China free trade agreement, both of which Japan is aiming to achieve together with the TPP, appear uncertain at best, due chiefly to the latest confrontations over the Senkaku Islands and the Takeshima islands.

Meanwhile, we cannot expect any early realization of larger-scale free trade accords such as an envisioned extensive FTA involving 16 countries--the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, Australia, China, India, New Zealand and South Korea.

Japan must make the TPP free trade accord its top priority. Japan should shift into a proactive mode of quickly joining the talks and, while not giving in to China and South Korea on other issues, it must forge ahead in the bilateral talks with South Korea and in the three-way trade talks.

This is the strategy Japan must stubbornly pursue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 7, 2012)
(2012年9月7日01時50分  読売新聞)


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