Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo expressed opposition to the Democratic Party’s call for a free trade agreement to be concluded with the United States.
At a news conference in Toyama City on August 4, Shii stated as follows:
The question of how Japan’s agriculture should be revitalized is a major issue in the upcoming House of Representatives general election.
The JCP has demanded that price support for agricultural produce and income support to family farmers be provided and that border measures be maintained and even strengthened in order to block the limitless opening of the Japanese market to foreign agricultural products. We are also urging the government to immediately implement its decision to buy reserve rice up to 1,000,000 tons in anticipation of a possible collapse of rice prices.
Regarding the issue of concluding an FTA with the United States, the JCP in its election policy platform makes clear that the party is opposed to anything that deals a heavy blow to Japan’s agriculture and food supply. This is the position from which the JCP opposes an FTA with the United States.
We also urge the government to suspend the ongoing FTA talks with Australia.
There are two important problems involved in the issue of an FTA with the United States.
One is that all agricultural sectors, including rice, will be the main issues in the Japan-U.S. FTA.
The U.S. position on this issue is that “Agriculture can and should be a central part of a U.S.-Japan FTA, with all sectors, including rice, on the table,” as stated in the report published on February 16, 2007 by a bi-partisan U.S. group that includes former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
Shortly after this report, Hans Klemm, minister counselor for economic affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Japan, gave a speech at the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren) and emphasized the need to include agriculture in FTA or EPA negotiations if these talks are to be made feasible.
Klemm even asked Nippon Keidanren to be ready to persuade Japanese political leaders to accept the necessity to carry out agricultural reform in preparation for an FTA with the United States.
The other problem we should consider is that the conclusion of the FTA with the United States will leave Japanese rice devastatingly damaged.
A Japan Business Council report that analyzed the possible effects and challenges of a Japan-U.S. economic partnership agreement (EPA) predicted that liberalization of imports will lead to contractions of production in areas protected by relatively high tariffs and that Japan’s output of rice, grains, and meat will sharply fall.
In this regard, the Democratic Party of Japan’s call for the conclusion of an FTA with the United States in its election policy platform (“Manifesto”) is unacceptable because it will pave the way for the destruction of Japanese agriculture, including rice production.
The Liberal Democratic Party is criticizing the DPJ’s proposal for the FTA to be concluded with the United States on the grounds that it will lead Japanese agriculture to collapse.
However, I must point out to the LDP that the government must stop the ongoing FTA talks with Australia, which is predicted to cause a loss of 1.3 trillion yen to agriculture in Hokkaido alone.
It is also necessary for the LDP to make a critical review of its policy of opening the market to foreign citrus and other items, in particular its policy of importing unnecessary rice under the name of a “minimum access agreement,” which caused a recent scandal involving the illegal sale of tainted imported rice.
--Akahata, August 5, 2009