For The Record - Why Japanese People Have No Right To Know About TPP?

Chastened vice minister retracts comment about disclosing TPP documents

May 11, 2015
A senior vice minister has retracted his statement about disclosing documents on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade arrangement after a tongue-lashing from his superiors.
Yasutoshi Nishimura, a senior vice minister in the Cabinet Office, said May 4, "We want to coordinate matters so that (legislators in Japan) can also access (the TPP) text from next week."
But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was furious when he heard about Nishimura's comment and, according to government sources, retorted, "On what authority did he make that statement?"
Nishimura's immediate superior, Akira Amari, the minister in charge of TPP negotiations, said at a May 8 news conference, "(Nishimura) made a comment that led to a misunderstanding because of his desire to respond in a careful manner to opposition party Diet members."
"There are systematic differences between Japan and the United States, so the matter cannot be handled in the same way," said a contrite Nishimura at a May 7 news conference in Los Angeles. "I apologize for the poor manner in which I made my intentions known."
In the United States, U.S. senators and representatives can view the proposed TPP draft.
Amari explained May 8 that the system is different in the United States to that of Japan. U.S. legislators can face criminal charges if they leak certain information.
"It would be impossible to do the same thing that is being done in the United States," Amari said. "We need to give this matter more thought."
The participants in the TPP negotiations are obligated to protect the confidentiality of the talks. That is a major difference from negotiations within the World Trade Organization, where the various drafts being discussed are released at the appropriate junctures.
The conditions for disclosing documents related to the TPP negotiations were relaxed in March after calls in the United States for greater disclosure.
The U.S. trade representative's office has begun allowing the TPP drafts to be viewed by not only members of the U.S. Congress, but also in some cases by their staff. Officials connected to the major companies and industrial interest groups sitting on a U.S. government advisory panel are also allowed to view the documents. Among the companies on that government panel are Apple Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Nike Inc.
In Japan, the government has released summaries of the negotiations to political parties and business organizations.
For example, a seven-page summary of the negotiations was released May 1 explaining that talks had concluded on 10 of the 29 chapters in the TPP draft. The actual draft runs to several hundreds of pages.
In April, the opposition Democratic Party of Japan and Japan Innovation Party jointly submitted a bill that calls on the government to report on trade negotiations, including the TPP, at closed-door sessions of special committees in the Diet.
The government is anything but keen about passing such legislation.

(This article was written by Daisuke Igarashi in Washington and Hitoshi Kujiraoka and Go Kobayashi in Tokyo.)

Meanwhile, over in Europe, where they are facing similar challenges, the texts of the deals are made public. Not everything at once, but still, why wouldn't Japan get at least the same degree of transparency, if it tried?


A leaked draft of what the European Union wants excluded from a new trade deal with the United States has been obtained by the BBC.
The document describes itself as the EU's "initial offer" in negotiations over the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).
It includes the wording that UK ministers have said will protect the NHS from privatisation.
Anti-TTIP campaigners say a specific exemption for the NHS is still needed.
The 103-page document is headed "trade in services and investment: schedule of specific commitments and reservations".
It was produced before the most recent round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels were held at the beginning of this month.

On health, the document states: "The EU reserves the right to adopt or maintain any measure with regard to the provision of all health services which receive public funding or State support in any form".
The wording is the same as that used in a similar free trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA).
The UK trade minister, Lord Livingston, said last week that this text ensured "publicly funded health services are excluded".
The European Commission has also previously said TTIP would not affect how NHS services are provided, whether in Scotland or the rest of the UK.
But Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called for the NHS to be specifically excluded from the deal.

She said: "I think this issue has to be put beyond any doubt.
"Our NHS is not for sale and TTIP must have a clear and explicit exclusion for the National Health Service."
The trade union Unite said "real risks" remained because of the dispute resolution mechanism TTIP is expected to include.
The union's Scottish regional secretary, Pat Rafferty said: "Last week Lord Livingston tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the Scottish people.
"Now this leaked document has confirmed Unite's expert legal advice, that NHS services in Scotland and the rest of the UK do fall within the scope of the TTIP.


Pandabonium said…
TPP - toilet paper partnership - a shi**y deal right off the roll. :(

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