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We severely criticize agreement reached at TPP negotiations

Statement by INOUE Hisashi, Secretary General
National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren)
October 6, 2015

Trade ministers from Japan and 11 other countries, including the United States, reached an agreement at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks on the evening of October 5 (Japan time).

The National Confederation of Trade Unions (Zenroren) severely criticizes the agreement and demands that the Abe administration withdraw from the TPP, which gives up and sells out the Japanese people’s lives and security, and economic sovereignty to the United States and large global corporations. We will do all we can to work more effectively together with various organizations at home and abroad to protect people’s livelihoods and the local economy and to block the signing, conclusion and ratification of the agreement by exposing its problems.  

In the run-up to the “agreement”, the Abe administration was so irresponsible as to repeatedly make voluntary concessions to the United States. It must be strongly criticized for abandoning Japan’s economic sovereignty.

Sharp tariff cuts on beef and pork and imposition of tariff-free annual import quota for rice and dairy products renege on the government promise and a Diet resolution to “protect areas designated as sanctuaries.”  Secrecy has persisted in the TPP negotiations. The government provided no information on concrete issues that were discussed.  That was how the agreement was reached.  How abnormal the Japanese government’s attitude is! We must not tolerate the Abe administration’s policy neglecting the interest of the people.

The published outline of the agreement shows the Abe administration’s abnormal stance in making concessions. This will inevitably have serious negative impact on the people’s livelihoods and security and on the local economy.

In the course of negotiations, rice was one of the most contentious issues. In Japan, the rice prices have been falling since last year, making extremely difficult for rice farmers to survive. Nevertheless, the Japanese government has agreed to set a 70,000-ton tariff free import quota for U.S. rice. This will necessarily lead to further price falls and stagnation of rice production and discourage farmers from growing rice. It will also make it difficult to secure safe rice and lead to further drops in Japan’s self-sufficiency of food.

All this shows that tariff elimination or cuts will have an enormous negative impact on the regional economy and small- and medium-sized businesses. Provisions on investment, financial services, and government procurement, and intellectual property are also estimated to have grave impacts. The government must make all those agreed provisions known to the people. The Diet should hold a thorough debate on them in order to protect Japan’s economic sovereignty.

In Japan, a handful of global corporations, wealthy people and investors are reaping huge profits but the majority of the working people as well as the local economy are experiencing hardships. The income gap is widening and poverty is growing. The need now is to drastically raise wages and personal income, which can lead to the creation of healthy domestic demand. This is the way for economic recovery in our country. The agreement reached at TPP negotiations clearly goes against these needs.

At a time when the economy is being further globalized, workers should strengthen their global solidarity to fight to win a policy shift to give priority to ensuring people’s better livelihoods and safety. Zenroren will continue to increase the effort in this direction.

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