[A2k] WSJ: Abe Says Japan Will Join Trade Talks
thiru at keionline.org
Fri Mar 15 08:27:27 PDT 2013
• JAPAN NEWS
• March 15, 2013, 6:29 a.m. ET
Abe Says Japan Will Join Trade Talks
By TOKO SEKIGUCHI
TOKYO—Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday that his country will take a seat at the negotiation table of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, a move that may pit him against powerful farm lobbies ahead of upper house elections this summer.
"This is our last chance to join the TPP and take part in the rule-making," Mr. Abe told reporters Friday at a news conference to mark his decision to join the talks. "For Japan to remain inward-looking means we are giving up on the possibility of growth."
Friday's decision comes after weeks of high tension within Mr. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party, a pro-business conservative party also with strong ties to farm associations that have significant influence over the key rural vote.
A number of produce sectors heavily protected by import tariffs have loudly protested against joining the TPP talks, which also include agricultural giants like Canada and Australia.
Rural prefectures of Kochi and Shimane lodged complaints earlier Friday, Kyodo News reported, warning the dangers TPP pose to their already dwindling farm population.
Mr. Abe had been setting the stage for Friday's announcement since his party beat the Democratic Party of Japan in December's elections, assuring voters that he would automatically be against joining the TPP if it required "prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate tariffs."
Last month after his visit with U.S. President Barack Obama, Mr. Abe confirmed that such requirements did not exist, rejecting TPP critics who say that taking part in the negotiations would be the beginning of the end of Japanese agriculture.
"I promise to protect our farm and produce," Mr. Abe reassured the public adding, "We must be on the offensive with our agriculture-this is a chance, not a crunch."
The Japanese government estimates the TPP, presuming all tariffs are scrapped, could add ¥3.2 trillion ($33.3 billion) to the economy, which is 0.66 percentage point of the real gross domestic product.
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