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Farmers rally in Tokyo against Japan’s entry into TPP talks

Xinhua | 13/03/2013

Farmers rally in Tokyo against Japan’s entry into TPP talks

By Thomas Whittle

TOKYO, March 12 — Japan’s largest farm group rallied Tuesday in Tokyo to protest against the government’s entry into the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks.

About 4,000 people took part in the rally, according to the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (the JA-Zenchu), which is part of the Japan Agriculture group (JA).

The farm body, along with seven other groups from the forestry, animal husbandry and fishery industries, has long opposed Japan’s joining in TPP, which would eliminate tariffs and damage the country’s agricultural sector with cheap imports.

Akira Banzai, head of the union, said in his opening speech that TPP was a drastic agreement that would change the way the nation deals with food and threaten the safety of food. He called for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party to obey its election campaign pledge in December and not to join the talks.

“If the government announces its participation in the negotiations soon, the move would constitute a violation of their election pledge,” said Banzai.

Abe is widely expected to make an announcement of the decision to join the entry talks at a press conference this week after his Liberal Democratic Party presents a set of proposals.

The secretary-general of LDP, Shigeru Ishiba, however, said at Tuesday’s event that the Party did not intend to break its promises made at last year’s campaign.

The LDP, some of whose members remain opposing to the TPP, is likely to leave the final decision up to the government on whether Japan will participate in the TPP talks or not, according to local media reports.