politics

Rallies for and against TPP held in Tokyo

48 Comments

Rallies both for and against Japan's possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks were held in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has said it will make a decision on whether to join the U.S.-led Pacific-wide free trade zone by the Nov 12-13 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, meeting in Honolulu.

The U.S., Australia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Peru are negotiating to join the TPP bloc, which brings together Chile, New Zealand, Brunei and Singapore.

Japanese farmers are vehemently opposed to joining out of fear that food imports would ruin them. A group of 3,000 farmers, belonging to the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, and 161 lawmakers met in Hibiya Park. The farmers then marched in front of government offices in Kasumigaseki, carrying banners denouncing the TPP and accusing the government of abandoning the agricultural sector and ignoring their opinions.

Meanwhile, some 400 supporters of Japan's participation in the TPP held a symposium at a Tokyo hotel and urged the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to join the agreement. The group, which included academic and corporate leaders, said delaying the decision to join the TPP will widen the gap between Japan and its competitors in the global market.

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48 Comments
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I sympathize with mom and pop farmers, but it's inevitable that their way of life and farming is going to change. It's already been happening as younger children forsake farming for the city. In some ways this could be a good thing for Japanese farmers who would be forced to become more effiicient, such as buying new equipment ( if they have any equipment at all ) and discover better ways to market their products. I read an article not so long ago about how many farmers were stubborn and resisted change. And who knows, maybe those younger educated people might be attracted back with new business plans to modernize.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I saw this on NHK last night and one rice grower was saying that he wouldn't be able to compete against foreign rice which would be nearly 50% cheaper. I wanted to ask him why is Japanese rice so expensive. Consumers never seem to question why fruit and vegetable prices are so high in Japan.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The Japanese consumer that wants to pay higher prices for domestically produced products will do so whether or not Japan joins the TPP. Imported veggies already are on the market and are being sold in local markets at discounted prices and it's the choice of the customer whether or not they want to buy the produce in the first place.

However not everyone can afford to buy locally cultivated produce due to the high costs and to them joining the TPP will make it easier for them to put fresh vegetables on their tables.

Japanese rice farmers in particular shouldn't worry too much about imported rice. Generally speaking the public here prefers the domestic rice to the imported rice anyway and the average consumer will continue to purchase domestic rice until the time comes that imported rice equals the same taste as domestically produced rice. The people this would help again is those in lower income brackets that need the assistance in getting rice on their tables.

I think part of the fear of the farmer is not just price.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Yubaru

I bet you won't find any taste difference between domestic Japanese rice and Japanica rice produced in California (as consumer group surveys have shown).

Right now, the agricultural system is a cartel controlled by JA. Price are regulated and there is no real competition. A Japanese farmer who would want to sell his rice at lower prices (because of better business organization, bigger cultivated surface, more modern harvesting techniques, etc...) would not be allowed to do so because of price control by JA (there is a minimum price).

This kind of behavior by the government, JA and the farmers, restricts free market mechanisms and does not allow for competition-driven business improvement. Therefore Japanese farmers are the less competitive of the developed world. Instead of focusing with foreign prices, Japanese farmers should focus on find ways to improve their businesses, find ways to be profitable and win market shares domestically and abroad.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I bet you won't find any taste difference between domestic Japanese rice and Japanica rice produced in California (as consumer group surveys have shown).

Actually there is a difference but not as in one is better than the other, just a subtle difference in taste and texture, even though both were prepared in the same manner. That isnt the point for me, but there are Japanese that would point to that difference as being one reason why they would want their domestically produced rice.

The Japanese farmers and JA have been huge backers of the LDP for decades and thanks to their actions they have priced themselves out of the world market and now hopefully will have to face the consequences of their actions!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This kind of behavior by the government, JA and the farmers, restricts free market mechanisms and does not allow for competition-driven business improvement. Therefore Japanese farmers are the less competitive of the developed world. Instead of focusing with foreign prices, Japanese farmers should focus on find ways to improve their businesses, find ways to be profitable and win market shares domestically and abroad.

Well said. The Japanese farmers are afraid of foreign rice being cheaper? Why is that? Because foreign rice producers are more efficient. Solution? Japanese farmers to become more efficient. Easy. This is a good thing.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

@Piglet

I bet you won't find any taste difference between domestic Japanese rice and Japanica rice produced in California (as consumer group surveys have shown).

Your comment reminded me of what I witnessed in 1993 when Japan imported foreign rice, mostly Thai Indica-variety rice (Thai-mai), for the first time due to a rice shortage in Japan brought on by crop failures that year. Countless Japanese people at that time emphatically told me, ad nauseum, that they did not like foreign rice. They were adamant about it.

At that time, in addition to the endless news reports condemning non-Japanese rice, agricultural concerns held an event where they pitted Thai Indica-style rice against the Japanese Japonica variety in making nigiri sushi. Of course the Indica didn't hold up, thereby 'proving' their point that foreign rice is inferior. Although it was an obvious agricultural propaganda effort on their part, everyone here seemed to buy into their ploy hook, line and sinker.

Anyway, because they know that there is absolutely no difference between Japonica grown in Japan and Japonica grown overseas, it is doubtful that these agricultural interests would ever initiate an impartial taste test involving the Japanese public. I would love to see it, though.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

If Japanese rice is as good as people here are brainwashed to believe then people will still buy it, regardless of price. I think farmers know their rice is average at best and are scared of people getting higher quality for lower price.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

JA as others have correctly pointed out is a PLAGUE on Japan, JA doesnt let farmers evolve to become more efficient, Japan has enjoyed over 30yrs of protection & hasnt done didly to improve their lot, this needs to happen otherwise the hollowing of Jpn will just get worse & then many Japanese simply wont be able to afford J-rice.

Bottom line is Jpn can no longer let JA call the shots, this organization needs to be dismantled before Japan incurs even more damage caused by JA!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I agree with some of the posters here - the Japanese keep bragging that Japanese rice tastes the best and they're always suspicious of anything that's cheap (local logic, I guess). They react with disgust at foreign rice, so why the heck should they worry that foreign rice is sold. The logic (shouldn't use this word too often) is that most Japanese wouldn't buy the foreign horrible stuff. Yes, I've heard that foreign rice is taxed several 100 % here. Still, the basmati I get here isn't that much more expensive than the average Japanese rice, but think how much cheaper it could be. At the moment, rice in the west costs a fraction of what it does here. Sorry, but I have no sympathy for people who charge through the roof. Just let those who dislike Japanese rice have the choice to buy foreign rice at a reasonable price. Plus, I would like the additional reassurance that the rice is not contaminated with radiation.

I don't grow money on trees personally, so cheaper products really are a godsend to me. You often get two types of everything in the fruit and veg section. Exactly the same. Okra, 80yen from Thailand or 150yen from Kagoshima. Peppers, 80yen from Korea or 200yen from somewhere in Japan. Mangoes 350yen from Taiwan, 2000yen from Okinawa. Those who want to pay more for Jp products - good on you. But let others have the choice.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I've been eating Japanese rice for over half a century. Nothing will change that.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Foods from Australia, New Zealand, Chile would be good. Unlabeled GM foods - that's what we will get from USA ! They are dying to push these foods to other countries.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I think farmers know their rice is average at best and are scared of people getting higher quality for lower price.

Sorry but I disagree with your premise here. Japanese rice farmers truly believe that their rice is of the highest quality and point to the 93' imported rice as a mark that the general population preferred their rice in comparison to imported rice no matter what the cost to consumers was.

Rice producers (farmers) here also look to their production as part of a cultural pride that they are the one's feeding the country and take it as an affront that anyone can or would even dare to compare their rice with anything available on the world market. They also point to their production (outdated) techniques, the water, the land, the weather, everything being better here and that only they can produce the high quality rice that the average Japanese consumer purchases.

Japanese in general are not accustomed to eating anything other than white rice produced here, and due to that fact as well they are used to eating locally produced rice and their palate, like so much else in the country, and culture, is satisfied with the status quo that there is an institutionalized belief that (wrongly) only they can obtain that taste from something produced domestically versus imported.

Not to mention the belief (sometimes misconception and blatantly misplaced) that locally produced products are safer as well.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Well, maybe compared to Uncle Ben's rice, I would have to agree that Japanese rice tastes better. I also found that back in 1993, when we had the Thai rice, that it tasted just fine. Even my stubborn husband had to agree that it wasn't bad at all. Korean rice is also very tasty and costs half of what Japanese rice costs. If Japan doesn't want to become completely isolated again, it should join forces with other countries. The future is the world working together not against each other.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The future is the world working together not against each other.

And this future means Japan is going to get left behind.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

For people comparing different rice, it is not that Japanese think other than their own rices are inferior. It is just that Japanese rice is different in taste and texture which is most suitable for Japanese type of meals. You can't make sushi with less glutinous rice like Jasmine etc. I think the foreign rice closest to Japanese rice would be " Calrose " rice.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I feel Japan would be better off negotiating individual trade agreements with each country.

But I wonder if all the doom-mongering by the farmers is justified. There is no tarriff on oats imported into Japan, yet they still cost 5-6 times the UK price. I expect that if agricultural tarriffs were eliminated the retail price would not fall significantly, but the importers and middlemen would make a tidy sum.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

"...it is doubtful that these agricultural interests would ever initiate an impartial taste test involving the Japanese public. I would love to see it, though."

Many years ago a blind taste test of wine in France resulted in the tasters choosing the California wines as superior ( you can imagine the shockwaves from that ). Would be intersesting to see the same test between Japanese rice and California Japonica rice. Incidentally, California exports 40% of it's rice crop, with 50% going to Japan, so obviously some people in Japan are willling to buy it even at this time.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Once you pissed off the Japanese farmers is a suicide attempt for japanese politicians, any attempts demanding an open market for argicultural products importing will resulting 'earthquake' in japan!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Only 'criminalrizing' those attempts of selling imported argicultural products in japan would appease the Japanese farmers' frustration! And this is what Mr Noda has got to do!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The extremely high tarriffs on rice mean there is effectively no market in Japan for imported rice, and so no incentive to grow more of the Japanese-style rice produced effectively in California. That would change if large-scale imports of rice became possible under the TPP. The whole system needs to be overhauled, with free competition and entry to the industry, a gradual phasing out of subsidies via the JA system, full freedom to join or not join JA co-ops depending on whether they are useful, provision of working visas for foreign farm workers to come to Japan, examination of the tax regime to encourage transfer of land, and so on. The JA bank should be converted to a normal bank and privatised. And finally, the parliamentary voting disparity should be properly dealt with once and for all to end the permanent overrepresentation in parliament of rural communities. That should do it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

TPP has it advantages, yes it may harm the domestic agricultural industry of cheap US rice etc but it has so many advantages for every other Japanese industry, no tarrifs, lower tax, no red tape or defamation, more edge over the competition in the US.

At the end of the day, the consumer decides! and its good for domestic companies to break from monopolies and to be more transparent, open and competitive, competition is what leads innovation and not stagnation in new ideas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Premium Japanese rice, will also sell very well in the US too, so they shouldn't need to worry a great deal as their domestic market shrinks, they need to export to other countries also.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Korea which recently joined the TPP, their economy soared, car, electronic sales soared, they could eventually leap frog Japans edge in the US market within several years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Under a WHO agreement, Japan is forced to import every year, millions of tons of American rice grown in California, the same short grain japonica variety has what is grown here. The rice is stored in government silos at a cost of ¥1.4 billion per year. When the rice is near rotten, it's sold on, for animal feed.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Japan needs to break free from monopolies and take advantage of competition and freer regulations, making it more transparent to do business and set examples to compete more. They do have premium quality goods which are known for quality but going into a stagnated mode, due to China's cheap garbage flooding all markets, can have a detrimental affect on Japan's prosperity.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Another thing, Japanese rice farmers, could consider buying large land in the US or other countries, with same quality yield as Japanese rice and resell it back, making further profits.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think everyone here is focusing a little too much on rice. The labor costs in other countries are so low that they can sell a whole variety of different vegetables, fruit, meats etc. at much lower prices here.

A southeast Asian/Latin American producer that only has to pay wages that are less than a dollar an hour to its farmers will definitely beat the Japanese farmers who have to earn enough to pay the extremely high living costs that we have here in Japan. They will not be able to survive and will go out of business.

You think the countryside is emptying out now. Wait till these farmers' can't sell their produce at market and you'll really see the countryside die. Along with the food self-sufficiency rate.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

American farmers receive more than $20 billion a year in subsidies. That should stop and then people would have to pay the real prices. The same can be said for American oil.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Folks, I am totally against TPP and joining Hatoyama, Kamei and other 120 lawmakers of Japan.

This will change foundamentals of Japanese economic model and lead Japan into a spinless country.

What they want is your money (the bottom line). I would like to warn you that this is a "PLAZA ACCORD" phase 2 for Japan. I have already posted my reasonings against TPP and I do not repeat it again here.

Japan needs to be very assertive with good reasonings to say "no" to TPP. I wish I could join these guys to protest, but I am in the other side of glove.

Pray for Japan

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The excuse being shopped by lawmakers and farmers against the TPP (as well as many posters on here) is that it will put domestic farmers out of business. My answer is that if that's GENUINELY the concern of said people then there is a LOT they can do to ensure competition and their livelihoods. First, why isn't the government doing more to help said farmers (aside from vying for political points as they are now) in terms of subsidies both to help those farming now and to get people on the swaths of unused fields in rural areas? Second, if you ask Japanese which country produces the best produce/food in the world, pretty much all will say Japan, especially in regards to rice (some might hesitate these days with the Fukushima problem, but otherwise...). As such there will still be high demand for Japanese products, and demand for them in other nations will INCREASE as a result. YES, some customers will inevitably buy SOME products that come cheaper from other nations, but I simply cannot see someone who brags about how delicious Japanese rice is suddenly switching to rice from Vietnam because it's cheaper (you could probably tell them it's from Japan in a taste test and they wouldn't know the difference, but still).

Japan should most certainly join the TPP, but I fear Noda and others will simply bow down to the likes of the quitter Hatoyama and other law makers and avoid joining, while we continue to be price-gouged for potentially tainted products or through tariffs on imports.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

ugh free trade zones. well there goes the rest of japan's shrinking manufacturing jobs.

no foreign rice for me either.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

NEWSFLASH: White, polished rice - no matter where it is from - is not so good for you, folks. People should actually be trying to cut consumption of the stuff - it has little in the way of nutrition or fibre, and is basically carbs just like white bread. Natural (brown) grains are the way to go.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese are stupid for defending over priced Japanese rice! Vegetables! Fruits! Everything in Japan is a rip-off!! Stupid! Stupid Japanese will drool over square watermelons and other idiotic inventions that should be way cheaper but are not except the crap coming out Tohoku that Now can not even be given away for FREE!! Why?? Radiation and nobody trusts Tokyo Electric nor Our J government!!!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Japanese farmers are vehemently opposed to joining out of fear that food imports would ruin them.

They are already ruined. Remember Fukushima? Japan farming is finished.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Folks, this is not a rice trade issue. This will change all Japanese economic foundamentals.

I know the voting record of Kamei and his reason of leaving LDP of Japan. He totally disagreed with Koizumi who was for privatizing postal savings to global investment bankers.

That's exactly what US bankers wanted Koizumi to do. The global bankers wanted postal savings of Japan. Do you remember the 2008 US financial meltdown? I am glad Japanese postal money did not fall into their hands while many European public pensions account did.

Kamei called it right that the postal savings money should be always under Japan's control.

Again, I understand his reasoning against TPP. I am ALL with him again.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I agree with globalwatcher. He/She/It is correct that Japan really needs to be careful about opening up to cut-throat capitalism and privatization. The US has everything to gain here with its huge relative advantages. There are a lot of positives to government control, protection, and security of a nation's food and money supply.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Forgot to add other 2 important issues here.

1)Look at a mess of Euro and Greece bail out situation. French, German and other nations are now telling what Greece should do. Greece is a bad boy.

When you join TPP, Japan will lose its sovereign power for fiscal/monetary policies when the things go wrong. Other countries will tell you how to run your country.

2)Mistake in history should not be repeated.

I would like to warn you that other countries may (hope not) or could issue food sanctions against Japan. Then what do you do? Here is a history of the past for you to consider before making any final decision for TPP.

The U.S. stopped selling oil to Japan in July of 1941, which was part of the motivation for the attack from Japanese perspective. US was their major oil supplier, and the shippments were stopped in protest of Japanese invasion of French Indo-China.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Since when did globalization ever benefit the common people? American's got cheaper products fron China, great! but it also cost them a whole load of manufacturing jobs.

So Japan joins the TPP, and to hell with the farmers, the environment and food security. The import flood gates are opened and how long after that will it take for all the Sony's, Toshiba's, others, to pack up and move their operations overseas so they can complete with other low wage paying countries?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I really have no problem with Japan joining a FTA and excluding rice. If they limit it to one product and other countries can make similar very limited exclusions then that is not a big deal. I get tired of the free trade zealots who scream if even one product is excluded. They remind me of the Southern Baptists who told me I was going to heck.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

and food security

What food security are you talking about? Right now Japan imports a ton of different food products from all over the planet. There is no security now, in fact the consumer here gets ripped off from the start due to the power of the collective (JA) and ever middle man and woman that you could think of.

Direct sales from producer to consumer are localized at best, with regards in particular to food and produce, and the consumer here over pays for everything under the sun.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The TPP is about much more than farming. In the end it will be about the further loss of jobs, just as it happened in the US.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

BunrakuminDes: "NEWSFLASH: White, polished rice - no matter where it is from - is not so good for you, folks. "

Exactly! Along with various other foods, the human body simply cannot properly digest white polished rice, and it is quite bad for your body. I try to stick to genmai if eating rice, or go with Thai or Basmati, but my better half insists at the very least that we mix brown and white together.

globalwatcher: "I know the voting record of Kamei and his reason of leaving LDP of Japan."

How about his reasons for quitting his position last year? And then of course he said his party will still stay with the coalition then in power (after quitting the group in power under Koizumi). In other words, you stand behind a politician who not only can't make up his mind, but flip-flops and cannot fulfill any of his responsibilities in his desperate grasp for power. In fact, wasn't he dragged out of the Diet once in disgrace? Anyway, you don't talk at all about the TPP itself, just about Kamei and his resistance to postal reform (and his constant quitting).

As for comparing it to an oil embargo during WWII, I'm not sure your argument really flies.

Speed: "He/She/It is correct that Japan really needs to be careful about opening up to cut-throat capitalism and privatization."

Ummm... slapping huge tariffs on imports while pushing domestic products is privatization, my friend, something the powers that be want to keep in play and keep profiting from.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japan can NOT feed itself!! Ask Japanese who is not a farmer and they know they are being screwed royally by their farmers and their government!! Now let's all be happy smile with a song in our hearts and buy all the Radiation tainted food from Tohoku?? Chiba?? Ibaraki?? Saitama?? Gunma?? Shizuoka??

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In other words, you stand behind a politician who not only can't make up his mind, but flip-flops and cannot fulfill any of his responsibilities in his desperate grasp for power. In fact, wasn't he dragged out of the Diet once in disgrace?

It is very interesting you and I have a different perception about him. Kamei refused to be a mental prostitute, so he quit. How would you go to bed with a good concience when you know someone is committing wrong doings?. Do you call General Colin Powell as a quitter when he did not agree with Bush's action on Iraq War?

As for comparing it to an oil embargo during WWII, I'm not sure your argument really flies.

It sure DOES.

US congressmen would do anything to get elected with a financial support from riches including the Kochs Brothers. What about a Japan Bushing? What about a Super 360 Tariff that was specifically aimed at Japanese auto industry?

Anyway, you don't talk at all about the TPP itself,

Yes, I already have my reasonings against TPP posted on the topic similar to this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To globalwatcher

Folks, this is not a rice trade issue. This will change all Japanese economic foundamentals.

is exactly that, GlobalWatch. I am not an economist,but it is not hard to imagine that the agriculture of Japan would be easily destroyed by countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia and industry would certainly transfer their factories those countries - banks and insurance companies would be swallowed by the American giants. I do not understand is why not make an agreement only between Japan and the United States ? it really does not smell right to me.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The government have stated the country will join the TPP. A formal announcement will be made at the APEC meeting being held in Hawaii in November.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the agriculture & fisheries industries are just selfish welfare industries, they account for about 1% of GDP but they consume more than 5% of the annual budget 5trillion yen in tax payer subsidies.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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