Abe launches TPP task force


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday launched a government task force to prepare for Japan's entry into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade talks.

The task force will be led by economic revitalization minister Akira Amari and initially have 65 members, NHK reported.

Abe said Japan could not afford to miss negotiations on the TPP. "A huge economic bloc that would account for roughly a third of the world economy is about to begin."

Supporters of the TPP say participation would give Japan's flagging economy a boost -- the government estimates by as much as 3.2 trillion yen over a decade -- and increase consumer choice.

They say opening up Japan's cosseted markets is vital if its stumbling economy is going to pick up speed, a key campaign promise from Abe.

But opponents claim it could be a body blow to the country's aging farmers, removing the sky-high tariffs that have sheltered them and sending many to the wall, changing the face of the countryside in the process.

Japan's rural heartland is a crucial source of support for Abe's brand of conservative nationalism and any suggestion that farmers will lose their unparalleled protection could be politically costly for him.

Abe has promised that he will protect Japan's farm industry and Japan's food industry.

The TPP has been on the global agenda for years, but a succession of politically weak leaders have been unable to commit Japan to involvement.

© Japan Today/AFP

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65 member task force? Umm, do I smell a whiff of amukudari here? Maybe they should kick off with a working group to decide whether to talk about setting up the task force to prepare for the talks on whether to join the talks on entry to the TPP. That would create work for more old codgers.

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65 people isn't that much, even for an initial department, when you consider the huge size of the trade pact that could be agreed. It's not just the negotiators but policy people, junior members, lawyers, support staff, etc.

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hopefully not too many farmers in this group or its dead before its even begun.

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