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2015年11月12日 (木)

衆院閉会中審査 競争力を強めるTPP対策に

The Yomiuri Shimbun
TPP-related measures must build strength of farming, manufacturing
衆院閉会中審査 競争力を強めるTPP対策に

The government must thoroughly explain the significance of a broad agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and steadily carry out related measures at home.

The House of Representatives’ Budget Committee held a session of the Diet’s adjournment inspection on Tuesday, with the TPP and other issues taken up for deliberation.

Yuichiro Tamaki of the Democratic Party of Japan criticized the TPP accord reached last month, as it runs counter to a Diet resolution adopted in 2013 seeking to maintain tariffs on the “five key categories” of farm products, including rice and wheat.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pointed out that the tariff-free rate on farm goods to be imported to Japan remains at just 81 percent — markedly lower than in other member countries. “We have reached an accord which is consistent with the aims of the Diet resolution,” he emphasized.

In multinational trade talks, negotiating countries, in principle, need to make concessions to each other. Besides, the tariff-free rate on these five key items stands even lower, at 30 percent, and the reductions mainly apply to items for which Japan has only a modest record of imports and those for which alternatives are not available at home. It cannot be said that the accord runs against the Diet resolution.

Tamaki also labeled the automobile-sector negotiations as ones in which Japan “suffered complete defeat by the United States,” as he said it would take 25 years for U.S. tariffs to be eliminated on Japan-made automobiles.

Abe refuted Tamaki’s remark by saying: “What is important for Japan is to eliminate tariffs on auto parts. And we surely won in this regard.”

In light of the expanding local production of Japanese automakers in the United States, the government, during the TPP talks, put more weight on eliminating tariffs on auto parts than on automobiles themselves. As the tariffs on 80 percent of auto part items to be exported to the United States would be abolished immediately after the TPP takes effect, it can be said that a certain tangible result has been achieved.

Takagi must explain more

While expressing his support for Japan’s joining the TPP pact, Yorihisa Matsuno, leader of the Japan Innovation Party, requested that the TPP-related measures the government will draw up within this month not be unduly weighted toward public-works projects.

It is important that the TPP-related measures incorporate ways to expand the nation’s economic growth by focusing on the enhancement of international competitiveness of Japan’s farming and manufacturing sectors, rather than on the protection of farmers.

Meanwhile, Michiyoshi Yunoki of the DPJ questioned reconstruction minister Tsuyoshi Takagi over an allegation that Takagi had given condolence money to voters in his electoral district.

Takagi said, “The condolence money I offered at the funerals where I went myself was wrongly recorded [as having been given by my political organization in my political fund reports].” He then indicated his view that his deeds did not constitute a violation of the Public Offices Election Law.

But Yunoki was not satisfied with Takagi’s explanation and asserted that through his on-the-spot inquiry he had obtained testimony of a party concerned who said, “Takagi didn’t carry condolence money [when visiting the funeral sites].”

Takagi may need to still assume accountability over the allegations, including one over his having paid for “flowers placed at a deceased person’s bedside.”

The government and the ruling coalition parties plan not to convene an extraordinary session of the Diet this autumn. Since 10 members have joined the Abe Cabinet as new ministers through the latest reshuffle, an extra Diet session should be convened in principle. But as the ordinary Diet session was extended by 95 days this year and diplomatic schedules have been tight since October, it is somewhat inevitable for the extra session to be shelved.

We hope they will create occasions for debates as needed in the days ahead.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Nov. 11, 2015)


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