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2016年7月 1日 (金)

農業政策 TPP前提に競争力を高めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Agricultural sector should get competitive with an eye on TPP
農業政策 TPP前提に競争力を高めよ

To revive the nation’s agricultural sector, it is vital to take aggressive measures such as expanding exports and promoting large-scale farming.

For the upcoming House of Councillors election, parties should compete in presenting forward-looking policies to allow future generations to have brighter prospects.

The focus of contention is how to deal with the agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact reached by 12 countries including Japan and the United States.

According to government estimates, the TPP framework will generate economic benefits exceeding ¥13 trillion, largely thanks to increases in exports of manufactured products. On the other hand, agricultural production is estimated to decrease by up to ¥210 billion annually. Those engaged in the agricultural sector have strong concerns over the inflow of inexpensive foreign products.

In its campaign pledges, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party presents a measure the government will take to adjust supply and demand when the trade pact goes into effect, under which domestically grown rice would be purchased for reserves in the same amount as imported foreign produce. The pledges also seek to achieve the current goal of increasing exports of farm, forest and marine products to ¥1 trillion before the originally set target date of 2020.

In 2015, the value of Japan’s exports of these products totaled ¥745.1 billion, rewriting a record high for three consecutive years. We believe that more open overseas markets under the TPP framework will contribute to expanding sales channels for Japanese products.

To encourage the agricultural sector to develop into an export-oriented industry, it will be necessary to help the sector develop brand-name produce and come up with specific measures to achieve “sixth industrialization,” which means engaging in the entire process from production to retail.

DP complaints unfounded

It is hard to understand that the Democratic Party opposes the latest agreement even though it aimed to take part in TPP talks while in power as the Democratic Party of Japan. The main opposition party argues that the accord fails to exempt sensitive categories of farm products — such as rice — as sanctuary items, while also deeming the negotiation process unclear.

However, Japan’s rate of tariff elimination on agricultural, forestry and fisheries products stands at 81 percent, far lower than the corresponding figures for its counterparts. The participating countries also agreed that they would not make details of the negotiation process public. The DP’s claims seem to miss the point.

For the upcoming election, a political organization set up by the JA agricultural cooperatives does not support LDP candidates, and many of its prefectural chapters have decided that it is up to each member to decide whom they will vote for. The decision has been prompted by frustration over the TPP agreement and the agricultural cooperatives reform.

We hope that parties will compete in coming up with concrete strategies for boosting global competitiveness in the agricultural sector, based on the assumption that the TPP framework goes into effect.

The DP’s promises to revive the scheme of providing subsidies for individual farms to support their incomes, a policy set while the DPJ was in power, is also questionable. Offering uniform subsidies to farmers, including tiny-scale or part-time ones, would run counter to the efforts to promote large-scale farming and improve its management.

The LDP pledges to increase budgets to support farming and agricultural communities, but is urged to look into cost-effectiveness to carefully select projects that can boost the agricultural sector to an advanced level.

The nation’s agricultural population stood at 2.09 million last year, having decreased as much as 20 percent over five years. To put a brake on this trend, it is vital to realize “profitable farming.” The LDP calls for reducing costs and switching to high-revenue items and growing methods, and we believe that it will be necessary to make all-out efforts for these targets.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 29, 2016)


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