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Maehara denies US pressure on Japan to join Pacific FTA talks

Mainichi Japan | February 9, 2011

Maehara denies U.S. pressure on Japan to join Pacific FTA talks

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara denied Tuesday that the United States has been pressuring Japan to join a U.S.-backed Pacific free trade agreement, saying some Americans have expressed a sense of caution on the possibility of Japan entering the talks.

The foreign minister said at a press conference that U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos told him during a dinner Monday there are worries in the United States that Washington cannot craft the FTA called the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a way as it desires, if negotiating parties accept various requests of Tokyo.

Maehara, a strong TPP advocator, also warned against skeptics of the Pacific free trade arrangement in Japan, saying they have been overly worried about its possible negative effects and think "as if (the TPP) is a monster."

The TPP, which is currently being negotiated by nine countries including major agricultural exporters Australia, New Zealand and the United States, is aimed at requiring members in principle to reduce all tariffs to zero within 10 years.

Not only the heavily protected farm sector in Japan but also the service sector including health care have aired concerns about Tokyo’s policy of deciding by around June whether to join the TPP negotiations.

The Japan Medical Association has said further deregulations in the Japanese health sector could destroy the state-backed universal health care system.

Maehara said freer trade does not mean the integration of national systems and that Japan would not sign an FTA that would require overhaul of the current universal health care system.

"The lack of information fans fears. We will gather correct information and disclose it so the general public can convincingly discuss the matter," he said.

 source: Kyodo