We strongly oppose Japan’s participation in TPP free trade talks
February 25, 2013
Statement by ODAGAWA Yoshikazu
Secretary General of the National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
Japanese Prime Minister ABE Shinzo reportedly expressed the intention to join Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks in talks on March 23 (Japan time) with US President Barack Obama. We lodge strong protest against Abe’s way of accumulating faits accomplis to make such an important decision without national consensus being formed.
They have made clear that “it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations.” Citing this commitment, Abe insists that Japan can join the trade talks without the premise that tariffs must be eliminated without exception. Based on this agreement, the government is preparing to express as early as possible to participate in the TPP talks.
The Japan-US “Joint Statement” issued after the Abe-Obama talks states: “… should Japan participate in the TPP negotiations, all goods would be subject to negotiation, and Japan would join others in achieving a comprehensive, high-standard agreement, as described in the Outlines of the TPP Agreement announced by TPP Leaders on November 12, 2011.”
Confirming that “the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations,” Japan and the United States only said that “it is not required to make a prior commitment.” This means that a promise to eliminate tariffs is not needed at the threshold of the trade talks but that it is not ruled out that the elimination of tariffs on all goods without exception is imposed at the end of the talks in accordance with the “Outline of the TPP Agreement”.
This is what the joint statement says. Abe’s explanation is nothing but a statement to deceive the people.
In the House of Representatives election in December last year, Abe as Liberal Democratic Party president told the nation that his party will oppose Japan’s participation in the TPP talks if they are conducted on the premise that tariffs will be eliminated without exception. He was telling a lie. The LDP withholds the important fact that its promise in the general election was that Japan can join the TPP trade talks if 6 conditions are met, which include (1) setting numerical targets for automotive and other industrial goods is unacceptable because it is contrary to the principle of free trade; (2) Japan’s universal national health insurance system will be maintained; (3) standards for food safety will be protected; (4) Japan will not support the ISD provision, which will compromise Japan’s national sovereignty; and (5) government procurement and financial services should be dealt with based on the Japanese features.
Abe and Obama did not discuss all of the 6 conditions in the talks. We point out that expressing Japan’s participation in the TPP talks by leaving these 6 provisions ambiguous is a clear violation of the promise the LDP made in the recent general election.
Zenroren has been consistent in opposing Japan’s participation in TPP talks since the autumn of 2010, when the Cabinet led by then Prime Minister KAN Naoto was moving to decide that Japan should join TPP talks.
We oppose Japan’s participation in US-led TPP talks because we are concerned not only about negative impact they will have on the nation’s primary industries such as agriculture and forestry but also on workers, directly and extensively, due to investment activities of foreign funds called “vultures”, impact on the industrial structure, and impact on the labor market arising from changes in the industrial structure, and foreign immigrant workers.
TPP negotiations are underway behind closed doors and their details are not made public. It has been revealed that negotiation on investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) will give multinationals a right to sue a government demanding removal of regulation if they judged it is violating their interest. This means that the TPP attaches importance to giving some large corporations freedom to make profits while making light of the nation’s role to protect people’s lives, properties and basic rights, and even undermines national sovereignty.
That is why 90 percent of Japanese local assemblies have adopted resolutions to either oppose or express cautious attitude toward Japan’s participation in TPP talks. The government should keep this in mind.
No one can deny the fact that the government is not in a position to announce its participation in TPP talks. The government should be reminded that Japan’s participation in TPP talks is a national issue that has bearings not only on Japan-US relations but on economic sovereignty and food sovereignty. The government must be accountable to the people.
Zenoren urges the government not to rush to announce its participation in TPP talks. We are determined to keep on making every effort to do its part in cooperation with other sections of people in opposition to Japan’s participation in TPP talks.