Monday, November 14, 2011

PM Noda did not enter into TPP negotiations

(A Via Campesina (family farmer cross-border network) conference convened in Chiba, Japan earlier in the fall to address the TPP threat to small farmers in Japan and other Asian countries)

Many thanks to Martin Frid at Kurushii for his nuanced and sensitive analysis of PM Noda's ambiguous ("To join or not to join") remarks re whether the Japanese government will or won't enter into Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

Headlines in the North American media made much ado about nothing: giving the impression that Noda had announced that Japan had formally joined the TPP talks. Martin's post quotes a variety of sources, rendering a multi-dimensional picture from Japanese (and other Asian) perspectives
Asahi Shinbun had somewhat better coverage of the TPP debacle. They quoted coalition partner Shizuka Kamei of the People's New Party, who has experience as a trade negotiator, and is against the TPP:
The TPP concept originated from trade rules established by Singapore and other small countries. The United States is seeking to use them to govern the Pacific Rim free trade zone. If Japan gets involved in TPP rulemaking, it would amount to being unfair to China, South Korea and Indonesia, which are all major trading partners for Japan and not parties to the TPP regime.
Asahi also had this analysis of how difficult it might be for Japan to get serious about negotiations, as different ministries are responsible for different sectors of talks, with opposite goals...

My conclusion is that Noda's announcement, for whatever it is worth, amounts to little of substance. This is how opponents of TPP look at it, according to Asahi's analysis:
DPJ members opposed to Japan's participation in the TPP negotiations watched Noda's televised news conference at a room in the Diet. "I was relieved," said Masahiko Yamada, former agriculture minister who is a staunch opponent of the TPP. "(Noda) did not go as far as to announce Japan's participation in the TPP talks, but stopped at entering consultations."
The archipelago's traditional culture of family farms is a starting point for Japan's transition into a sustainable future. Localized food production on small farms (the only energy-efficient method of food production) is an essential strategy to slow climate change and protect our natural environment and biodiversity.

Among food and climate change experts are calling for the localization of food production. Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, an advocate for sustainable, small-scale agriculture ("Agroecology"), explains:
International trade only concerns nine to 10 percent of the food that is produced globally, yet it has had decisive influence on the way decisions are made on the way infrastructure develops and on how farmers are being supported...

Governments have generally supported export-led agriculture, supported global supply chains, and under-invested in local and regional markets.
Instead of going backwards (shutting down family farms and increasing imports of fossil-fuel intensive, emissions-based, GMO, pesticide-laden food products—that must be transported over long distances—from state-subsidized industrial factory farms and plantations), the Japanese government would be undertaking a domestic and global public service if it would further support and share its countrypeople's ethos of simplicity, sustainability and food security with the world.

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