Zenroren protests against Prime Minister Noda’s commitment to join TPP negotiations
by Secretary Geneeral ODAGAWA Yoshikazu
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
November 11, 2011
Today (November 11), Prime Minister NODA Yoshihiko expressed his willingness for Japan to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations that would lead Japanese society to ruin. It is very clear that the TPP represents the U.S. intention to impose its trade rules on Japan and that it would benefit only Japanese and U.S. large exporters while forcing the majority of the people to endure the unbearable hardships.
Prime Minister Noda has never explained to the people about impacts the TPP might have on Japanese industries and people’s livelihoods and about measures that would be necessary to deal with such impacts. He has made the decision for Japan to participate in the TPP talks in disregard of our opposition. In fact he capitulated to pressure from the United States as well as Japanese financial circles, who are pressing the government to join the pact saying that Japan must not fall behind the trend or that opening of Japan is necessary. We protest against such an outrageous decision and demand that the prime minister retract the decision.
The TPP makes it a rule to eliminate all tariffs and trade barriers. At present, tariffs on agricultural products and leather products still exist even after Japan’s entry into the WTO. Japan’s participation in the TPP would inflict enormous damage to these producers. At the same time, the TPP would require its member countries to lift non-tariff barriers concerning trade in services, including health care and pharmacy, government procurement, food safety, the labor market, and construction. For example, the proposed liberalization of mixed medical treatment and more restrictions on mutual aid programs are some of the examples of institutional changes that could have adverse impacts on workers and the general public. Participation in the TPP would mean a sea change in rules of Japanese society and its culture. It would be the dangerous ultimate of the “structural reform” policy. Japan’s participation in the TPP would also hamper the ongoing post-disaster reconstruction efforts.
The TPP would enormously damage the labor market. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries estimates a loss of 3.4 million jobs in agriculture and related business sectors. Unrestricted labor mobility would allow low-paid foreign workers into the Japanese labor market and intensify competition for lowering wages and worsening working conditions. This would inevitably exacerbate income inequalities and poverty in Japan. Foreign firms’ participation in Japanese public works projects would pave the way for the further dumping of prices and destroy public sector jobs.
The recent debate in the Diet (parliament) has revealed fallacies in the government’s arguments for Japan’s participation in the TPP free trade agreement. It has also revealed that important information has been withheld. But Prime Minister Noda is reluctant to respond to questions and opposition to Japan’s participation in the TPP. He is neither trying to explain his policy on the issue. Opinion polls show that the public is divided over whether Japan should join the TPP negotiations. It should also be noted that a large percentage of respondents expressed reservation, revealing that the government has not fulfill its accountability.
Anti-TPP rallies and actions are being held in many cities throughout the country. A large number of local assemblies have adopted resolutions opposing the trade deal or calling on the government to be cautious about joining the TPP negotiations. All this shows that the time is not ripe for the government to arrive at a conclusion on this issue. This is why we are demanding that Prime Minister Noda retract his commitment to join the TPP negotiations.
Zenroren has been consistent in opposing Japan’s participation in the TPP since the prime minister at the time, KAN Naoto, abruptly announced his intention to join the TPP agreement last year. We have been collecting signatures and taking to the streets to call for opposition to the TPP. We have been active also in urging lawmakers and local assemblies to oppose the TPP. Our struggle does not end here because of Prime Minister Noda’s announcement of his commitment to the TPP. We will further increase the common struggle to stop Japan’s participation in the TPP. Zenroren calls on all its members to join this struggle.