TPP: Everyone Should Be Truly Worried, Now

What's the name of that children's game, where you get to hit one thing after another, and another one after the other pops up, and it is the same thing over and over?

Same thing with TPP, the trade pact that seems to have no benefits at all, yet the economists and free market liberals and people in charge (who will no doubt profit from it since they own the right stock and have all the connections for future cushy jobs, aka revolving door or amakudari, with variations). Round after round of negotiations with little or no result. I went to the Brunei Round last year, and here we are, more smoke screens on the foggy radar (forgive mixed images).


Met a friend today, he just got married. Has his own issues, but loves nature and farming and has recently moved to an organic scheme near Tokyo, and he is getting a lot of attention. Young and handsome and generally genki. And even he said he was worried about TPP. "How can we farm if all these cheap foods are imported?"

Same thing with others I met recently from both northern and southern Japan, where they have trouble attracting youth to help out. And they want to do better. Case in point - farmers I have met in Aizu Wakamatsu, Fukushima do really well exactly because they are able to invite people in their 20s and 30s to help out - and learn a lot.

WWOOF (thanks Tom!) is another way to be a part of this growing movement.

I also went to a meeting with Japan Organic Agriculture Movement (JOAA) and again, the anti-TPP message is solid and well thought-through, and the concerns are real. Do I have to mention that mainstream farmers and postal workers and teachers and just about everyone are up in arms?

Ahem, again.

Tomorrow I'm going to PARC in Tokyo to help out with an international telephone conference with anti-TPP groups in the US and Australia, like Public Citizens. Should be - interesting. Everyone from the Japanese anti-TPP movements should be there. Time to stop this madness.

Asahi: EDITORIAL: Japan, U.S. should consider consumers, not industries, in reaching TPP deal

The question is whether the two countries can rise to the challenge from the viewpoint of seeing the benefits the deal would bring to general consumers and the boon it would give to their national interests instead of trying to protect the bottom line of specific industries.

Jiji Press: Japan, U.S. in Final Phase of Auto Trade Talks

The two countries concluded their three-day working-level auto trade talks in Washington. After the talks, Takeo Mori, Japanese ambassador in charge of economic diplomacy, expressed Japan's intention to make further negotiations, saying that there still remain difficult issues. Japan's TPP affairs minister Akira Amari has said that he hopes to settle the pending issues between the two countries, such as elimination of tariffs on farm products, by early October through ministerial talks with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman.

Eliminating farm product tariffs, in exchange for what? Sorry, guys, auto tariffs are a non-issue. Car ownership is decreasing anyway, in both the US and Japan. More and more people are finding more important things that they value higher. Yet, we all have to eat!

Anyway, Japan responded to this ages ago by eliminating all of its auto tariffs. The US kept its tariffs, even though Japanese car makers set up car factories in the US and created American jobs there.

Remind me, did any American car maker do the same in Japan? No.

And even so, the US still complains about Japanese "barriers" that are in fact safety rules, attempts to keep pollution down, and other measures to make all cars less harmful. These rules, by the way, in no way are aimed at US car makers, even though that is how well-paid lobbyists from Detroit and Washington like to push their sorry case. Having observed global trade negotiations for a long time, I know it is all about trade-offs, and bluffing. Much like poker. Not a very honourable game, sirs & madams.

This fall, TPP will have to destroy efforts in Malaysia to produce generic medicines at reasonable prices to its population. It will have to crush the state-owned companies in Vietnam. Australia and New Zealand will no longer be able to block dispute panels, where multinational corporations can sue governments (Japan, by the way, does not allow such ISDS in its current free trade agreement with Australia).

For consumers and all of us trying to make an honest living on this beautiful planet, we wish trade negotiators would do more, not less, to protect human (and animal) health, and we think governments should do more to advocate policies (precautionary principle, polluter pays, 3Rs) that make sense in this era of economic downturn, known as "negative growth" when all of us are dealing with higher bills for everything from electricity and fuel - to food.

Climate change is also playing a huge role, but how do we communicate that message to the TPP negotiators? We want less trade in meat and cars, not more!!

JA Youth is all over Japan trying to engage young people to like farming.

PARC has been around for a very long time, since the Japanese struggle against the Vietnam War, and their AMPO magazine was one of the few publications that kept people abroad in the know about events in Japan, with people thinking outside of the box. Back Issues, headlines only, in a pdf file from their website.

The Pacific Asia Resource Center, also known as PARC, was established as a non-government organization in 1973. Even before its establishment, PARC made a name for itself with its English language publication, AMPO, which carried well-researched articles on Free Trade Zones, banana plantation in the Philippines, shrimp farming and peoples’ movements in Japan and Asia.

The anti-TPP movement is not a recent little blimp on the radar. Corporate media will try to project that image, but there is a history to the protests.

Newly appointed Agriculture Minister Koya Nishikawa, from Tochigi prefecture, used to be a staunch critic of the kind of secret-deal-negotiations that the TPP represents. I wonder if he has the spine to stand up to real resistance, when push comes to shove.

Born i 1942, he thinks the Japanese economy in 2014 will prosper...

...if there's a TPP agreement. But if a deadline is set for ending negotiations by such and such a date, we lose our bargaining chips. Our stance in the negotiations respects the resolutions passed by the farm, forestry and fisheries committees of both Diet houses (which oppose granting concessions on rice, wheat and other sensitive farm goods).

(Top images from 采の榊 Sai no sakaki, an effort to revive local forests and provide sasaki for shrines)


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