TPP参加表明 自由貿易推進で成長に弾みを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 17, 2013)
Govt should push for free trade to boost economy
TPP参加表明 自由貿易推進で成長に弾みを(3月16日付・読売社説)


It is essential for Japan’s growth to tap into Asia’s economic vigor by expanding the nation’s free trade and investment. To that end, Japan’s move to join talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact would be a major step forward.

On Friday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally announced Japan’s intention to participate in negotiations on the U.S.-led multilateral free trade framework.

Reaching a national consensus on the matter has been difficult over the past three years, ever since the administration of former Prime Minister Naoto Kan began considering participation. We applaud Abe’s political decision on the TPP issue.

“Joining the TPP talks is a farsighted national policy,” the prime minister said at a press conference Friday. “If we miss this chance, we will be left behind in global rule-making efforts.”


TPP could boost Japan-U.S. ties

Currently, 11 countries, including the United States, Australia and Canada, are conducting TPP negotiations, and 29 areas, including tariffs, services and intellectual property, are under discussion.

Abe stressed: “We’ll make full use of our negotiating power to protect what needs protecting and push for what we want. We’ll seek the best way to serve national interests.”

We approve this stance. Japan, if approved, will be a latecomer to the TPP negotiations and will be in a disadvantageous position, but we hope the government will exert its negotiating power.

Meanwhile, the government has released its estimate on the economic impact of the TPP if the country joins the trade pact. According to the estimate, annual production in the nation’s agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors could fall by 3 trillion yen. However, with consumption and exports growing, Japan’s real gross domestic product is expected to increase by 3.2 trillion yen overall.

The Abe administration faces a test over whether it can devise a mid- and long-term growth strategy in its “Abenomics” economic policy. It is reasonable to use the TPP to boost the strategy.

Abe also said TPP participation would contribute to ensuring security and stability in the Asia Pacific region. Expectations are high that the creation of a free trade zone centering on Japan and the United States could also strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance.

Japan-U.S. security ties were shaken by poor diplomacy by the government led by the Democratic Party of Japan. Taking advantage of the situation, China, which is pursuing a policy of increasing wealth and military power, has opposed Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands and has repeatedly sent Chinese patrol ships into Japanese waters. Such provocations by Beijing have increased instability in East Asia.

To call for a growing China to abide by international rules, it is vital for Japan and the United States to work closely together.

Abe was able to announce Japan’s intention to join TPP talks mainly because he obtained confirmation from U.S. President Barack Obama at their February summit meeting that eliminating all tariffs would not be a precondition for joining the talks.

In principle, the TPP is premised on tariff elimination, but the summit meeting has made it clear that exceptions could be made for certain items under negotiation.


What must be protected?

Abe took an ingenious strategy in coordinating views within the Liberal Democratic Party to make the decision to participate in the TPP talks consistent with the party’s campaign pledge in the House of Representatives election last year. The LDP had pledged to oppose joining the TPP talks as long as abolishing tariffs without exception was a precondition.

While there were arguments for and against the matter, the LDP adopted a resolution accepting Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations, which created an environment for Abe to make a final decision.

Among other conditions, the LDP resolution calls on the government to place priority on ensuring five agricultural items–rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and plants for making sweeteners–will be exempt from tariff elimination. The resolution also seeks to maintain Japan’s universal health insurance system.

Abe is apparently thinking about joining the TPP talks after confirming the party’s solidarity on the matter at the LDP’s convention scheduled to be held on Sunday.

Obama has announced a goal of completing the TPP negotiations by the end of this year. That leaves very little time as Japan is expected to join the talks around July.

Abe appointed Akira Amari, minister in charge of economic revitalization, as minister in charge of TPP issues. Serving as the government’s point man, Amari must do his utmost to work on formulating trade and investment rules that reflect Japan’s national interests.

A hard-fought battle is expected over the process of narrowing down items to be exempt from tariff elimination.

In past trade negotiations, Japan has refused to abolish tariffs for about 940 items, which account for about 10 percent of the total, mainly agricultural products such as rice and wheat.

It remains unclear how many items Japan will be able to keep as exceptions. Each country has items they want treated as exempt, with Canada seeking exceptions for dairy products and Mexico for textiles and shoes.

Japan has compromised in prior consultations with the United States and largely agreed, for the time being, to allow the United States to delay eliminating import tariffs it imposes on passenger vehicles and trucks. In return, Japan should win concessions from the United States on agricultural products.


Strengthening agriculture

It is an urgent task for Japan to strengthen agriculture’s competitiveness in preparation for further market liberalization. Apart from participation in the TPP talks, the current situation of Japan’s agriculture, where farmers are aging, is already severe.

As Abe pointed out that the TPP is a “big opportunity, not an adversity,” the government should put efforts into such policies as fostering farmers, and promote “aggressive agriculture.”

Japan will soon agree to begin negotiations for an economic partnership agreement with the European Union and also is scheduled to begin talks for a trilateral free trade agreement with China and South Korea.

Japan should switch to the offensive on the TPP and regain lost ground in its trade policies by accelerating negotiations for other trade pacts.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 16, 2013)
(2013年3月16日01時34分 読売新聞)


srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: 英字新聞 パーマリンク


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