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TPP trade talks will be thorny issue at Obama-Abe talks


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Mr Obama and other TPP participants,

Do not agree to let Japan keep tariffs and numerous sneaky non-tariff barriers on agricultural products, medical-related products and various insurance services and so on. It is merely pandering to special interests here and has nothing to do with safety or any other obfuscation. Ideally, send a letter to all major Japanese exporters asking them to put big pressure on these vested interests or you will refuse Japan's entry.


8 ( +11 / -3 )

Talks...on the table.....considering.....get off the potty.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That would be a brilliant move by Abe. Open up Japan to imports just as they're devaluing their currency. That way they can blame those dastardly foreigners for having such expensive stuff, and further harming their fragile, unique economy.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japan’s politically sensitive products

In other words, "Our farmers have unfairly been given a huge amount of voting power and they consistently vote for us. So we have to do whatever they say, if even they make up only 5 percent of our population."

2 ( +5 / -3 )

In other words, "Our farmers have unfairly been given a huge amount of voting power and they consistently vote for us. So we have to do whatever they say, if even they make up only 5 percent of our population.

Japanese farmers make the sweetest rice on that earth. I have tried Sushi made with US rice, the taste is terrible. US has vast fetile land and less prone to natural disasters. They are supported by US authority with many subsidies. It has unfair advantage. Free market means no government handout.

If struggling farmers have to compete US farmers, there is no more market left for them. They have to beg on the road for living.

-10 ( +5 / -15 )

unfortunatley for japan there politically sensitive products will be most of there agriculture/fisheries, theyve also got to convince all the TPP members not just the US. Im betting the train will leave the station & japan will be forever trying to play catchup. The farmers will be the ruin of Japan if they havent done it already, more than 5% of the annul budget is allocated to these parasites for a industry that accounts for about 1% of the economy. When will the majority of the J public get it into there heads that all the monies that is wasted on the farmers/rural public works projects only lowers the standard of living for the Urbanites where the majority of the population lives. J gov has to understand you cant keep everybody happy, just the majority. thats what democracy is all about

0 ( +3 / -3 )

As much as I understand that a country tries to preserve food independence, one has to be a little realistic. Nearly 800% import tax on a staple food product is a joke, full stop.

Also, Japan, think about it. Dont you think the American car industry would also prefer protection from cheap (and admittedly better) cars from Japan and Korea. You cant have it both ways if you want to be in this club.

I have to agree with what was said above: the Japanese public (consumer) makes up 100% of the population and they should be the government`s first responsibility. Pharma, for instance: why am I paying 7 euros for a deodorant stick, more than 3 times what it costs in Europe??? (And is that why a lot of people here seem to have a BO problem in summer?)

You produce dirt cheap in China, then you wanna sell it for a lot of money without any tariffs to other countries, but charge other countries 800% import tax? Get real!

3 ( +4 / -1 )


I have seen a documentary on Japanese TV showing Japanese farmers successfully competing in and exporting to overseas markets - rice, that is. But they admitted that they had to change their ways.

Again, I think food independence is an important issue in any country, but I think the farmers have had it a bit too easy in the past. Every other industry has to innovate due to competition, why not Japanese rice farmers???

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Japanese farmers make the sweetest rice on that earth.

That's good to know. But if Japanese rice is so superior, then why does it need such elaborate protection just to survive? Open markets tend to reward good products, like Japanese cars and French wine, not destroy them.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

“People need to understand, particularly folks in Japan, that this train is not going to sit in the station forever,” Yeutter said.

In other words, Obama wants the TPP in some form, more than he needs Japan to be part of it. And given the revolving door in the Japan PM's office the last few years, he's unlikely to take much stock in any assurances Abe gives him anyway. Remember Hatoyama's famous "trust me" comment in relation to Futenma.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Zenpun, above, seems to suggest that although US rice is "terrible" he/she would buy it if it were cheaper, leaving struggling Japanese farmers "begging on the road".

But if that's not the case and he/she would buy Japanese rice regardless of the price of imported rice then, clearly, Japanese farmers would still be able to make a living.

The truth is that many people would find imported rice tastes just as good as Japanese rice. Then they might wonder why they are being ripped off by inefficient, Japanese farmers. This is the reason tariffs are kept so high: to maintain the myth of superior, Japanese rice.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Japan and free trade will never work together. Too many barriers (most of them sneaky ones) on the import side or doing business into Japan from elsewhere.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japanese white rice is not good for the body, plain and simple, though brown rice is. Anyway, Senpun couldn't be further from the truth; Basmati and Jasmine rice are superior in many ways besides taste, and Japan mislabeled a lot if their rice anyhow these days because no one wants the stuff from the north. As such the farmers opposed to the TPP are killing Japan, and Japan will whine and beg exception when it's inevitably left in the dust.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Zepun, if Japanese rice is as superior as you say it is (I do not agree) then there will exist a market for it without tariffs of 700% on imported rice.

There is simply no (economic) rational for coddling one very small segment of the population to the detriment of the rest.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What makes me laugh is the US stance on car imports. It claims there are non-tariff barriers, but then explains that one of the man sticking points is the existence of the kei-car segment. Its like, huh? A segment of fuel efficient and size efficient cars in a country that has no fuel and no space. The US also complains that the tax is too high for cars with engine capacity of 3,000 and higher. Huh? again! Like that might be to disuade people from buying gas guzzlers? JAMA did a good study highlighting the difference between US and EU manufacturers. US dealerships declined 74% over the last decade whilst EU dealerships have gone up 72%. Fundamentally, EU cars are doing well here because they are desirable, the odd thing is that about 40 years ago Japanese cars were in exactly the same position in Europe - better than the local offerings.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

But if Japanese rice is so superior, then why does it need such elaborate protection just to survive?

JeffLee, why do you hate Japan's sweet, sweet rice and Japan?


-1 ( +2 / -3 )

What's amazing is that the people against joining the TPP don't realize that opening the market to more Japanese products abroad will strengthen exports, especially if it truly is of the quality so many claim. What these old farmers, who are subsidized up the wazoo, are afraid of is adapting and being forced to compete when they know they cannot and will not. Same goes for domestic consumption -- if the quality of Japanese goods are that much better, despite the fact that even with the tariffs they still need to import nearly 60% of what Japan consumes, they will choose Japanese goods over the cheaper imports, regardless. Again, the only people the TPP will hurt are those who need protection because they cannot adapt and survive on their own.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The (US)claims there are non-tariff barriers, but then explains that one of the man sticking points is the existence of the kei-car segment. Its like, huh?

Well, think about it. With Kei cars the Japanese gov't has created a segmented market. So if you're the US or Europe, with a paltry 4-5% of the total market, then catering to a small slice of an already tiny market, around 2 percent or less, raises your per-unit costs, because you don't have the scale that the domestic makers can take advantage of.

And no, kei cars are not efficient. The ridiculous 660 cc designation was drawn up by bureaucrats, not engineers...for postwar farmers! The engines need to be turbo-charged and tweaked-out in order to perform properly.

EU dealerships have gone up 72%.

Europeans, who make some of the world's best vehicles, have a pathetic 5 percent share and make the same complaints the Americans do.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


So if you're the US or Europe, with a paltry 4-5% of the total market, then catering to a small slice of an already tiny market, around 2 percent or less, raises your per-unit costs, because you don't have the scale that the domestic makers can take advantage of.

Hmm, so if so small, why put it up as a "barrier"? Better to just ignore it? But I think you are wrong as the market share of kei cars is nearly 40% of the new car market. Why foreign car makers don't try to enter this market is because the margins are so very thin. As for performance, I think you'll find that outside of the US downsizing is a huge trend in order to maximise fuel economy. 2l cars are dropping down to 1.4 and less (Look at VW's 7 seater as an example). People in Japan use cars as a tool for transport or work, and very little as a leisure object. EU manufacturers do complain about one common things as the US makers, and that is the set of safety rules, but this is largely around just not being able to read them as opposed to the rules trying to disqualify foreign vehicles for any specific reason. I think it was BMW (maybe Audi - can't recall) who said it was a pain because they needed to hire translators. Naturally, the EU provides the EU rules in Japanese so this might be an imbalance, right? Just kidding, EU doesn't provide rules outside of the 16 basic languages it adopts.

Also, with the yen exchange rate as it was, EU dealers could have cleaned up by dropping prices and still making a significant profit. BMW, via Mini, chose not to do so and actually increased their prices preferring higher profit per vehicle over increasing market share. That advantage is now disappearing with the yen getting weaker now.

And no, kei cars are not efficient.

Not efficient? The top ten kei cars are all above 23.0km/l. Only hybrids like Prius better that, as do Vitz and Fit at around 24/25km per l. This is 2009 data so has probably improved since then. Diesel isn't popular here as the carcinogenic particles they produce are not viewed as a positive thing, something the UK after a long love affair with Diesel is just beginning to realise. US average fuel consumption is nearly DOUBLE the average consumption of EU BTW. The picture is clear to me, the US doesn't have the cars that the majority of Japanese people want so it can't sell them efficiently (Orange Dodge Challengers may be an exception to that rule btw), EU makers are growing their toe hold, but viewing themselves as premium brands (Mini, Peugeot) and overpricing is not going to do themselves any favours.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese farmers make the sweetest rice on that earth.

You spelled "most bland tasting" incorrectly there.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

All about choice. Japan would rather hold the pubic hostage and be allowed to protect outdated farming methods than open the markets and let the consumer decide if they want to fork over and arm and a leg for the 'sweetest rice" in the world. These farmers KNOW they will not survive because the local will wise up and buy the cheaper product that is just as good as the locally produced. They don't want to give us the choice because they know they will be the losers. Hold the public hostage with crazy prices and then claim that Japanese products are superior... Laughable.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

@tmarie - basically if the market was open price pressure would eventually push most people to downgrade and buy cheaper imported rice, don't disagree with that. But what are the outdated farming methods you refer to? Forget the grandpa and grandma farm, they don't count in this story, the real rice producers have the most amazing machines to plant and harvest - Here is something from 2005 http://web-japan.org/trends/science/sci051014.html

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I'm not just referring to rice farmers in my post. Many produce farmers here are very outdated when it comes to their methods. With regards to the rice farmers, if they;re using such methods, they don't need the man power and time so certainly can drop their prices. But they won't. They enjoy their profit and screwing the public all with the backing of the government. It's disgusting.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

The Japanese farmers on the whole are not rich but JA the middleman is. The price the farmers get for their food is a fraction of what is paid in the shops. A country must not allow it's farming infrastructure destroyed at any cost. If a government allows that, the country can be in a similar situation as North Korea if their is a world crisis or war.

I would urge those to look at what free trade has done and a good example is the EU. It has not led to prosperity and it leads to less safeguards. Cheap products ultimately come at a price to the average person,. A few of the elite grow richer and that is why they are all for free trade, the same people that lead the world into recession.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Compare to China, U.S. auto companies have export problems to Japan and they have given up. In Japan, Keiretsu is a form of corporate structure in which a number of Japanese companies link together, usually by taking small stakes in each other and usually as a result of having a close business relationship, often as suppliers to each other. The structure, was a way to defuse the traditionally adversarial relationship between buyer and supplier. If you own a bit of your supplier, reinforced sometimes by your supplier owning a bit of you, the theory says that you are more likely to reach a way of working that is of mutual benefit to you both than if your relationship is at arm’s length. U.S. auto companies disliked Japan’s keiretsu because they saw them as a restraint of trade. keiretsu restrains trade because there is a very strong preference to do business only with someone in that Japanese family. In Japan the keiretsu were regulated by specific laws, and they were structured in such a way that cooperation between them was almost compulsory.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the logic, US may be larger market. However Rice eating population of US is smaller than Japan. Even many Asian descendants of US has adapted to western diet. Japan is a loser of Rice trade.

Rice, seaweed and Fish are not popular diet for US. On the contrary, US corns, soy beans and oranges will be high demand in Japan.

If there is TPP trade for agriculture is agreed, Japanese farmers are losers. Japan trade deficit will be higher.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Free trade agreements harm the small independent mom pop operations greatly..Be careful Japan or soon you may become like the US where small scale farming is now a hobby that earns little to no income. Big ag rules the markets in the US. Also,without tariffs that equal the playing field free trade can lower the standard of living of the citizens,sure many products become cheaper and allow more choices to consumers but that comes at either great cost or great benefit dependent on the scale of economies and the value of currencies..China imports have destroyed the manufacturing sector of the US economy. Go slow and be careful Japan,look long and hard at the negative aspects of free trade. look carefully at the EU and see how,while some counties thrive,others fail to make any meaningful gain and some fail completely. Also study the effects that the NAFTA has had on the US, Mexico,and Canada. do not be sold into believing that open trade without restrictions is your savior as it might just be the straw that breaks the camels back....as is the case in the us. US household income has been declining for several years and millions of our citizens are now out of work and many that are working are doing so in low wage service industry jobs that have wages bellow the US poverty level..40 percent of the US population is either on food stamps,rent subsidies,or som e other form of government social support because our economy has been displaced via free trade agreements.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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