Daily Yomiuri: Noda chose words carefully / TPP language thought to be aimed at soothing opponents
Noda sought to win the support of opponents to the talks by referring to his experiences on his family farm. "I remember my mother carrying me in a basket on her back in my childhood," he said. "I remember the earthy smells and the calm and peaceful farm village. These early experiences will remain in my memory. I will always protect beautiful farm villages."
Noda carefully coordinated opinions inside the government and the ruling coalition parties. He postponed his decision on the TPP for one day on Thursday, and consulted with senior DPJ officials about the statement he was going to make during the press conference Friday, and listened to their opinions.
Early Friday, Noda consulted with DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Michihiko Kano about what he would say at the press conference later in the day, a source said.
As a result of the consultations, Noda decided to avoid emphatically saying something like, "There's no choice but to join the TPP negotiations to rehabilitate Japan after two 'lost decades' of economic stagnation," the source said.
By using indirect language, Noda expressed his intention to join the TPP talks, but at the same time, he managed to give DPJ opponents the impression that Japan would be joining only pre-talk talks.
"The vague statement was meant to minimize discontent among DPJ opponents, including former farm minister Masahiko Yamada and those who threatened to leave the party, an observer said.
"Prime Minister Noda didn't say the government would join the negotiations," Yamada said after Noda's press conference. "He said only that Japan would join 'pre-negotiation negotiations.' He accepted proposals by the DPJ and stopped short at the end."
Contrast this with the headlines of major newspapers, that made it seem like Japan had now confirmed that it would join the actual negotiations. Noda can only hope for Japan to attend talks as an "observer" in Honolulu this weekend, when the heads of the nine negotiating countries will meet, as no real decision has been made to join.
The Mainichi notes that the TPP issue "has sharply divided public opinion in Japan." Yet their headline is misleading, to say the least. For a major newspaper to claim that "Japan decides to join Pacific free trade talks despite resistance" is just not the truth. This indicates how divided the publishers, editors and the journalists are when it comes to TPP and "free" trade.
Asahi Shinbun had somewhat better coverage of the TPP debacle. They quoted coalition partner Shizuka Kamei of the People's New Party, who has experience as a trade negotiator, and is against the TPP:
"The TPP concept originated from trade rules established by Singapore and other small countries. The United States is seeking to use them to govern the Pacific Rim free trade zone. If Japan gets involved in TPP rulemaking, it would amount to being unfair to China, South Korea and Indonesia, which are all major trading partners for Japan and not parties to the TPP regime."
"The Foreign Ministry does not appear to be capable of obtaining accurate information about what is going on inside Washington. Perhaps, it does not want to reveal even information that it already has. It looks like the Noda administration is calling for Japan's participation while keeping the country blindfolded. Giving lip service to the United States seems to take precedence out of political considerations."Asahi: Kamei: Noda administration will collapse if Japan joins TPP talks
Asahi also had this analysis of how difficult it might be for Japan to get serious about negotiations, as different ministries are responsible for different sectors of talks, with opposite goals:
Another hurdle is whether Japan is fully prepared to engage in tough negotiations. The Japanese government does not have an office that handles all international trade talks, unlike the United States, which has the U.S. Trade Representative, and South Korea, whose trade bureaus under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade does the job. The Japanese Foreign Ministry works as the organizer of economic partnership agreement talks.
But officials from the farm ministry are the negotiators if tariffs on agricultural products are involved. And bureaucrats from the health ministry form the Japanese delegation if the talks concern medical products.
My conclusion is that Noda's announcement, for whatever it is worth, amounts to little of substance. This is how opponents of TPP look at it, according to Asahi's analysis:
DPJ members opposed to Japan's participation in the TPP negotiations watched Noda's televised news conference at a room in the Diet. "I was relieved," said Masahiko Yamada, former agriculture minister who is a staunch opponent of the TPP. "(Noda) did not go as far as to announce Japan's participation in the TPP talks, but stopped at entering consultations."
Asahi: ANALYSIS: Noda's tough TPP negotiations start in the DPJ