Mainichi News | October 22, 2010
Gov’t eyes reference to TPP negotiations in basic policy for EPA
The government is set to include a reference to Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in its economic partnership agreement (EPA) guidelines that are soon expected to receive Cabinet approval, it has been learned.
By mentioning participation in TPP negotiations, the government hopes that Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who will serve as chairman of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference to be held in Yokohama on Nov. 13 and 14, will be able to draw attention to his leadership in regional economic integration. However, due to hesitancy within the ruling coalition, the government is likely to refrain from issuing a formal declaration of participation in the negotiations.
In his policy speech on Oct. 1, Kan said the government would look into participating in TPP negotiations but the comments sparked resistance from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and agricultural organizations, which feared an adverse effect on the domestic agriculture industry. In light of these concerns, the government plans to state that it will make an effort to keep the agricultural industry propped up at the same time.
Details of the economic partnership agreement guidelines are being arranged by the senior vice ministers of the agriculture ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, with Cabinet Office Senior Vice Minister Tatsuo Hirano playing a central role. The vice ministers have agreed with the idea of taking part in negotiations and Kan received a report on the issue from State Minister for National Policy Koichiro Genba on Oct. 19.
The guidelines will include reference to aims to establish a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), encompassing China and Russia, by around 2020. This is aimed at holding China in check as it looks to work together with the United States, using the TPP, which the U.S. has viewed favorably, as a stepping stone.
There have been many calls from within industrial circles for Japan to take part in the TPP so as not to get left behind in the move toward regional economic integration. At the same time, it is certain that Japan would face increased pressure for economic liberalization, which has put agricultural organizations and some opponents within the ruling Democratic Party of Japan on guard.