Agriculture and TPP: Full Disclosure Is a Prerequisite for Debate

2016 Upper House Elections

Ratification and passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and related bills was shelved before the close of a regular Diet session and so remains under deliberation.

Agriculture is particularly spotlighted within TPP, which covers many areas of trade. The greater portion of the 32 single-seat districts being fought over in the Upper House lies within agriculture-centered regions. Even within the Upper House, TPP’s position as a main issue presents a policy challenge.

TPP contains a wide range of points of contention in the agriculture portion alone. Within the five “sensitive” categories (featuring 586 items) on which the Diet passed a resolution and sent on to the administration in 2013 requesting protection against certain imports, 174 items or about one-third will have the import tariffs reduced or removed.

The administration estimates that the maximum effect TPP will have on agriculture is a 2.1 trillion yen decline in output and no effect on rice. Farmers have continuously voiced mistrust in these numbers, saying “it’s not realistic.”

The catalyst for this mistrust is the wide gap between the estimates offered by Japan and the United States on the effect TPP will have on agricultural commodities. The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that rice exports to Japan will increase by 23 percent. The central government also forecasts a fixed increase on domestic imports of rice, but claims that there will be no effect on domestic producers because the central government will buy the same amount of domestic rice for extra supply purposes. It seems far-fetched.

Thinking about how opaque the negotiation process was and how there is still a lack of disclosure of information, it’s only natural that doubts should creep up. Kumamoto Prefecture, a leader in agricultural spending within Japan, was severely hammered by the Kumamoto Earthquake. Unease about its future is spreading in the area.

Prime Minister Abe is calling for farmers already skeptical of TPP to pursue “Aggressive Agriculture.” The central government announced a plan to move up by one year the goal to expand agricultural and marine export totals to 1 trillion yen by 2020. The opposition party is criticizing the administration, saying it “is trying to Americanize our agricultural and marine industries.” The greater portion of negotiation transcripts were blacked out. This paper demands full and complete disclosure of information related to TPP from the central government.

In order to fully understand heated debates over TPP and the agriculture industry for Upper House elections, the central government must work toward full disclosure of all information.

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