Agri HQ | 17 August 2015
Ex-minister seeks to outlaw TPP
Not content with suing the Japanese government, a lawyer and former Japanese agriculture minister took his anti-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) fight to Hawaii last month.
Masahiko Yamada took the opportunity of the July 28-31 TPP ministerial-level negotiations on the Hawaiian island of Maui to take his anti-TPP message to audiences of several hundred Hawaiian farmers, consumers, environmentalists and labour unionists as well as representatives from non-government agencies from several countries and the press.
Yamada also stood front and centre at an anti-TPP demonstration on Maui’s Kaanapali Beach on July 29.
About 400 demonstrators blew conch shells in front of the Westin Maui resort, where ministers from 12 Pacific Rim nations were negotiating the TPP trade pact.
Yamada has been leading a group of 1063 people who on May 15 filed a 45,650,000-yen (NZ$561,354) lawsuit against the Japanese government in Tokyo District Court.
The group aimed to halt the Japanese government’s participation in the TPP negotiations on constitutional grounds.
The TPP, initially a 2005 pact between New Zealand, Brunei, Chile and Singapore, called for reduction of all tariffs by 90% between member countries by 2006 and reduction to zero by this year.
In the past few years, Japan as well as Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, the US and Vietnam have been negotiating to join.
The plaintiffs suing the Japanese government included eight Diet (Japanese parliament) members, 157 lawyers, farmers and celebrities including writers, musicians and actors.
The group also included journalists and individual representatives of consumer co-operatives, labour unions and farming associations.
The plaintiffs were demanding the government be enjoined and restrained from negotiating the TPP, declaration and confirmation that the government’s negotiating the trade pact violated the constitution of Japan and that the government pay each plaintiff 10,000 yen (about $123).
Yamada was minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries under the country’s Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration.
The former rancher left the DPJ in 2012 over then-prime minister Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to join the TPP negotiations.
Yamada’s group opposes the TPP on constitutional grounds, specifically the Japanese constitution’s articles 13, which guarantees the right to life, article 25 which guarantees the right to maintain minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living and says that in all spheres of life, the state shall use its endeavours for the promotion and extension of social welfare, security and of public health, and article 21 which, among other things, guarantees the "right to know".
The TPP also infringed articles 22 and 29, which said freedom of economic activities could be limited by "public welfare" and limitation by government policy was accepted, article 41 which said the Diet should be the highest organ of state power and should be the sole law-making organ of the state and article 73 which said the Cabinet, on concluding any treaty, should obtain prior or, depending on circumstances, subsequent approval of the Diet, the complaint said.
Among the evidence the group took to court was the non-disclosure clause of the TPP negotiations which it said went against articles 21 and 73 while the TPP itself went against articles 22 and 29 because it weakened the government’s capacity to limit economic activities.
Going against article 41, the complaint said, the TPP forced participating countries to review all their laws including ordinances, rules and regulations to check if each of them was consistent with the trade agreement and to revise them if they were not.
Evidence the TPP went against articles 13 and 25 included consumers being negatively affected by the trade pact because it would do away with ingredient lists.
This would cause problems for the 4.5% of Japanese children who suffered from allergies to dairy, wheat, peanuts or emulsifiers, for example, Yamada said.
"If children with dairy allergies eat sweets containing cheese, they may die," he said.
Because of the TPP, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards would also be lowered.
For example, peanuts from the US might have been sprayed with certain pesticides, the use of which had not yet been decided in Japan by the government but nobody would even know, Yamada said.
"We will have to show scientific evidence that the pesticides are bad for health and, meanwhile, people will be consuming them," he said.
"Putting Japanese agriculture under pressure, the TPP also goes against constitutional guarantees of Japanese people’s right to a stable supply of food, as well as the right of agricultural workers to make their living through agriculture and dairy farming."