TPP In The News

Trade negotiations are going to be really big news in July. Prepare yourself. It may be like the Battle of Seattle all over again, except this time Japan can only join the real show, if Washington agrees, at a very late date. Akira Amari, Japanese Economic Revitalization Minister, thinks this "represents the core for Japan's economic growth."

Democracy? Sovereignty? You be the judge.

As NHK World notes:

The Japanese government has increased its negotiating team for the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks. Japan will join the negotiations for the first time. The talks are already in their fourth year. The next round of multinational negotiations will be in Malaysia starting July 15th. Japan is to take part in the 10-day talks starting on the 23rd.

Well? The US has not yet decided if Japan may join or not. Once the United States of America decides, Japan may or may not join the TPP talks starting on the 23rd (not when everyone else starts). And until then, Japan has no access to the documents, and which square brackets are about to be deleted as a favour for agreeing to Japan or anyone else agreeing to delete square brackets in the text, that may be favourable to people here or there. I would say? Japan getting in at all, at the mercy of some US congressman or -woman having a good day or not. What a rotten deal.

NHK World does not save its old stories, but if you want to follow important news developments like this, you have to save to your own computer. Here is the story from May 24, 2013.

Japan to join TPP talks in July

Japanese government officials will be taking part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks for the first time in July. Government officials from 11 Asia-Pacific countries ended the latest round of TPP talks in Lima, Peru on Friday. They have agreed to hold their next meeting in Malaysia from July 15th to the 25th.

Japan will not be able to take part in the negotiations until it clears formalities in the United States on July 23rd. This means Japan can only participate in the next round for up to 3 days.

In a joint press conference after the talks, Peru's chief negotiator Edgar Vasquez said that "member nations are aware that Japan wants to participate in the next round of talks in a meaningful way, and they believe that can be arranged". Before becoming a full TPP member, Japan has no access to documents relating to past negotiations. Given limited time at the negotiating table, Japanese government plans to step up its information gathering on market access rules and other areas of the agreement by sending officials to other participating countries.

May 24, 2013 - Updated 21:14 UTC
(Link no longer available)

Link however is available to a very interesting article where Nobel Prize-winning Joseph Stiglitz says, Thailand should not join the TPP:

Emerging markets including Thailand, other ASEAN countries and China should "decouple themselves from Western markets", Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz said during a speech in Bangkok yesterday.

To be able to grow, emerging markets must be less dependent on exports, boost domestic consumption and find their own model of sustainable economic growth, the US economist said.

Stiglitz said the most serious questions facing the global and regional economies were whether the euro zone would survive; whether the European Union would drop the austerity policies that have caused recession and switch to a policy of growth; and whether the US will be able to move beyond its current gridlock. Stiglitz expected not more than 3 per cent growth in the US in the near future, adding that the country needs to reduce its significant unemployment level. But full employment was not in sight this decade, he said.

"It's going to be a long time before we can get back to what I may call normal," he said.

He also expected emerging markets, China in particular, to be able to decouple their economies from Western economies and develop in a sustainable way.

Stiglitz was speaking during an on-stage interview with Nation Multimedia Group chairman Suthichai Yoon. He earlier gave a lecture on the global economic outlook as part of an international academic seminar at Dhurakij Pundit University.

The Nobel laureate opposes austerity measures, saying they had proven to lead to recession and depression. To avoid repeating developed countries' mistakes, newly emerging economies should invest in education, technology, the environment and public health and find a sustainable model of economic growth, he said.

"Focus on quality of growth, environment, living standards and how the benefits are shared," he said.

US innovations had contributed in part to the country's current economic instability. The innovations were created to save labour costs, but now unemployment rates are problematic, he said.

The US and European countries, as well as Japan, also need structural and educational reforms, but implementing them was difficult now that they were facing economic problems, Stiglitz said.

"From the point of view of the region and from the point of view of the planet, it's going to be very important for China to develop a new model of economic growth, because if it imitates the economic growth of the United States based on [unchecked] consumption and material goods, our planet won't survive," he said.

Discussing the problems in the euro zone, he voiced opposition to the idea of a common currency - a direction in which ASEAN might be heading.

"If you go down the common currency [route], that is a bad idea. You need to talk about Asian cooperation," he said. "Sharing a currency takes away the ability to adapt, to adjust," he said.

"A common market is a good idea; while the issues of the market are relatively small, they can still benefit from economy of scale."

Stiglitz said corporations' lobbying of politicians was standing in the way of resolving economic problems.

He also warned that the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP) that the US is trying to reach with other countries is dangerous.

"While negotiations are behind closed doors, cooperation is on the table," he said.

Drug companies, for example, are among the corporations lobbying politicians in secret negotiations, he said.

"The objective [of drug companies] is to make profit. The way they do this is to make you pay high prices even though the basic research is paid for by the American government," he said.

"They are very bad for the development of generic drug industries. Thailand is one of the good countries in this area. It would be a mistake for you to give up on that. And if you join the TPP, you will have to," he said.

From the NGO sector:

CUJ: No To TPP Participation!

Japan has a large number of consumer organizations, both on the national level and local level. Several, including Shufuren, Parc, Seikatsu Club, Pal System Coop, Dai-ichi Mamoru Kai, Shin Nihon Fujin Kai, have joined CUJ in protesting against the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP). Here is the latest statement from CUJ:
February 25, 2013
To: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Statement of Protest against the Japan-US Joint Statement Regarding TPP
According to the Japanese government’s communique about TPP after the talks between Prime Minister Abe and President Obama on February 23, 2013, that “it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations.”
However, in a news conference in response to this, Prime Minister Abe mentioned that there was no explicit promise regarding tariff sanctions during his meeting with President Obama. Meanwhile, the governing coalition of LDP and New Komeito is leaning towards announcing that Japan will participate in the TPP negotiations as early as possible.
Prime Minister Abe has then gone on to talk about formally announcing participation in TPP negotiations during speeches in the Upper and Lower House Parliament sessions on February 28, 2013.
This is in sharp contrast to the LDP election promises during last December’s general election, to oppose Japan’s participation in the TPP negotiations if abolishing tariffs without restriction becomes a precondition. Five conditions were included in LDP’s election manifesto, including protecting the country’s health insurance system, which covers all citizens, and food safety standards, as well as not accepting numerical targets for imports of cars and other manufactured products. LDP also promised it would not liberalize financial services or rules regarding public procurement. The TPP also stipulates a new type of dispute resolution system, known as Investor-state Dispute System (ISD) that will allow foreign corporations or financial investors to sue governments in other countries. The comment by the Prime Minister only five days after his meeting with the US President can only be construed as an absurd violation of LDP’s election promises in key areas.
We regard it as unacceptable that such infringements of the rights of people can be proposed, that will infringe on our lives and all aspects of society. This is related to governance and Japan’s national structure, its politics, and issues related to important national policy-making.
We strongly protest against your actions.
Consumers Union of Japan


Pandabonium said…
TPP (toilet paper party?) Well it is after all a pretty shitey deal.

A desperate attempt to keep business as usual alive by killing local economies. Exact opposite of what needs to happen.
Anonymous said…
This is kind of beside the point, or is it?

But I think saying "NO TPP" on a signboard is too defensive in nature, trying and failing to stop the increasing concentration of wealth and power.

“Stop TPP!”

In a football game, if one team is always on offense and the other is always on defense, who’s going to win?

Even if they pass a law stopping the TPP, that’s only a temporary setback for the giant blocks of money and inertia, which will just start building up again.

These people I should get busy creating the culture THEY I want to live in, and stop protesting the ludicrous system they I will never change or even find value from.

Again, I think fighting the TPP doesn’t solve the deeper problem: Japanese Agriculture has been designed by and for Corporate Japan, not the farmer and certainly not the wage laborer, and because of this, not in spite of this, the TPP is at our door step.

How to play offense in Japan: Jobs and Security for a true agri-culture – Go there and give or show them an alternative, or else the "outside" wins again.

Martin J Frid said…
Most of the people who are protesting are the very farmers who knows what the effect of this will be. And while I agree that there are other big issues behind this, isn't it actually inspiring that people who farm the land are the ones with the highest awareness of what TPP will do to them (and us)? These are the very people with a positive outlook on life, they are the ones who know how to grow things...!

You may want to join an anti-TPP rally and get to know some of these wonderful guys and gals. Japan's finest.

Anonymous said…
Right, gotcha! I thought my reply would be off topic, and it was.

I have nothing but respect, empathy and solidarity for these people. I know many are paying a heavy price. My own J-mom is anti-TPP, and she has regular meetings at her home about it.

Of course my stance opposite to how they protest is in no way intended to dismiss or diminish the courage and suffering they have and may further experience.

I’m not against them, I just think they're doing it wrong.

Going off topic again...

Like I’ve been saying since the beginning, I really wish the anti-TPP crowd would spend their time and energy teaching not what the TPP is going to do to them, but what they can do to be more resilient in the face of something like TPP. Why is TPP even here in the first place(?) should be a fundamental question. There’s no reason to protest capitalism, it’s not like anyone is going to give their power up!

Nobody wants to hear this, but I think a part of a system like TPP ,wants you to spend your time figuring out how to stop it (defensive), instead of figuring out how to beat it (offensive), because soon there won’t be enough oil for the system to keep going if everyone here grows and buys synthetic-fertilized food. What the capitalizing system fears is that food production might become completely decentralized by you and me, but sadly nobody's talking about this at the meetings.

Perchance the more permanent solution is to build alternate systems which have negative feedback, not positive feedback, in the concentration of wealth for the likes of the TPP, and to mostly fight at the local level: protesting with signs not in public spaces (namely Tokyo) for a weekend, but changing within everything all the time.

Easier said than done, of course, but at least I should say it.

Martin J Frid said…
Build alternate systems, I like that a lot.

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