Japan in no state to join Trans-Pacific Partnership talks says academic

Media Release: Jane Kelsey. Tuesday 19 July 2011

‘Japan is in no state politically, economically or psychologically to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations’ according to Professor Jane Kelsey, who has just returned from a lecture tour on the TPP in Japan.

Professor Kelsey was invited to Japan by the Conference to Comment on the TPP. Its members include a group of parliamentarians from the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who aim to promote public debate over Japan’s proposed participation in the deal.

Prime Minister Kan and his Cabinet put the decision on hold in June, following the devastating tsunami.

During the three-day tour Professor Kelsey delivered public lectures to full venues in Sendai, Sapporo and Tokyo and held briefings with numerous politicians, sectoral representatives and media.

‘Opposition to the TPP in Japan is often simply dismissed as protectionism and Japanese refusal to confront the realities of the 21st century. Yet everyone I spoke to was realistic about the challenges facing Japan and absolutely focused on the future’, according to Professor Kelsey.

‘The triple catastrophes of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown have focused people’s minds on recovery. The prospect of a TPP-driven economic experiment is terrifying, especially when it would be dominated by the interests of US corporations.’

One example was the proposed special regulatory zone in Sendai where a commercial fishing quotas system involving foreign corporate fishing operators is being promoted to replace the devastated traditional fisheries.

‘People fear that a TPP would lock in those changes and guarantee foreign investors rights and enforcement options at the expense of the local fishing community who has been left with nothing.’

There were equally strong concerns about the future of Japan’s public health care system, which has some similar issues to those involving Pharmac; the long-standing goal of US corporations to increase their grip on Japan’s partially privatised postal, banking and insurance system; and how more big-box department stores like Wal-Mart would further undermine the sustainability of local shops and markets.

‘It is widely recognised that the Kan government’s main goal in joining the TPP talks is to implement its hugely unpopular liberalisation and deregulation programme through the back door and lock it in to prevent a future government from changing tack. Given his fragile grip on power amid a growing controversy over the TPP, a decision to join the talks would be political suicide’, Professor Kelsey observed.



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