Elections Won't Soften TPP Issues

By Richard Smith
DTN Japan Correspondent

TOKYO (DTN) — Those pining for the Dec. 14 Japan election results to prompt faster movement on the Trans-Pacific Partership (TPP) agreement negotiations will find their hopes let down.

The election allowed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, along with its junior coalition partner Komeito, to grab 325 of the 475 Japanese parliament Lower House seats.

But the Japanese government will not push for faster resolution in the trade negotiations, Cabinet Secretariat Counsellor for Public Relations on the TPP Motoyuki Ishize told DTN.

"Our position until now will definitely not change," Ishize said.

A 2005 pact among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, the TPP called for reduction of by 90% for all tariffs between member countries by Jan. 1, 2006, and reduction to zero by the next year. In the past few years, the U.S. and Japan as well as Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam have been negotiating to join that partnership.

In negotiating to join the TPP, the Japanese government is constrained by domestic demand expressed last year in a resolution by the parliament. The resolution stated that a number of sensitive agricultural products — rice, wheat and barley, sugar, dairy products, and beef and pork — need to be excluded from any trade agreement or subject to renegotiations.

When asked whether Japan would be willing to soften its position on the "sensitive" agricultural products, Ishize repeated that the government’s position will definitely not change.

"We will protect what we must protect, and attack what we must attack," he said.