Monday, November 14, 2011

Fudge Factor Looking Forward

It is hard to argue with the brilliance of the fudge on participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership the Prime Minister concocted on Friday. The New York Times bought it (en). The U.S. government bought it until the Foreign Ministry told the USG that no, Japan had not committed to joining the talks, only to discussions with the member states of the pact about the response to which the United States side apologized for misstating the Japanese position (ja).

Now there is a classic move. Not only snookering the opposite side but getting the opposite side to apologize for getting snookered.

On the domestic side, the anti-TPP forces, which include all the opposition parties, the government's coalition partner, the agriculture and food production sectors (the bloody Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives collected, in only a matter of weeks, 11 million signatures protesting Japan's participation in the TPP -- in a country where there are no more than 2 million farmers), the Japan Medical Association, the Consumers Union of Japan and half the ruling Democratic Party of Japan's Diet membership, are all declaring victory for the Prime Minister's proposal to participate in talks without commitment (sort of like dating, but not going steady, on a national scale).

Just how long this salutary state of affairs lasts, once the PM returns from his Asia-Pacific road air trip with all his new-found friends (what a deal: APEC to ASEAN+3 to the East Asia Summit -- all together and with damn near the same lineup of leaders. Makes you wonder whether or not some brilliant PR person will dream up a midair race of all the leaders' jets, just for the hell of it) is a question. The time needed to negotiate with the various governments on Japan's participation in the TPP, with or without a final Japanese commitment, will be months and monthes, pulling the issue off the front burner.

The anti-TPP forces inside the DPJ have been mollified, at least according to the statements made by their leader Yamada Masahiko (ja). However, the PM will have to explain the meaning of his words fully to a joint congress of the DPJ caucus before heading off the ASEAN+3 meeting.

The opposition meanwhile, after having put every bit of its energy and credibility into stopping the prime minister from discussing the TPP at the APEC conference, has to parse out whether or not it succeeded -- but not in such a way as to interfere with with the passage of the third supplementary budget, which is slated for a House of Representatives vote sometime this month, despite the PM's being away from Japan an inordinate amount of time. They also have to worry about not jamming up the committee meetings on the enabling legislation for the third supplementary budget, which also need passage through the Diet before it recesses on December 9.

Just an aside, but from the looks of the calendar, the People's New Party will be continuing its role of "always the bridesmaid but never the bride" as regards its raison d'être, the counter-reformation of the Post Office. It is hard not to believe that the constant failure of the DPJ-led government to pass the PNP's postal reform rollback has not becoming a standing joke in the halls of the Diet.

Later - This comes courtesey Corey Wallace: Toronto's Globe and Mail bought into the misunderstanding of the Japanese government's true position vis-a-vis the TPP, it used Japan as the counterexample to the Canadian government's protectionism.

I would laugh but is just too sad.


Jan Moren said...

About the agriculture sector opposition: I read opinion pieces in yesterdays Asahi Shimbun from three members of that sector - a farmer, a farming company head and a farming association representative - and all three were basically not opposed to TPP.

I didn't get to read all of it in detail (I'm slow, and my commute wasn't long enough), but basically, the farmer said there's plenty of scope to reduce production costs; the president feels that exports are both feasible and necessary for Japans agricultural future, and TPP would facilitate that; and the association representative seemed to say (that's the one I didn't quite finish) seems to say this can trigger necessary reformation of the sector.

So the opposition on the individual level does not seem to be nearly as compact as news headlines may lead people to believe.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

I agree with the proposition that there is no reason to expect a collapse of Japanese agriculture in the ake of tariff reductions, whether under the TPP or some other regime. However what would collapse is the patron-peon system JA Zenchu imposes upon Japanese agriculture. The division of farmland in to tiny plots tilled by legions of senior citizens would also come crashing down.

Jan Moren said...

The tiny plots are disappearing already, TPP or no. The mostly senior citizens using that farmland can only do so because of their age; no young farmer would be foolhardy enough to bet their future on such small-scale farming.

Those rules are disappearing. And corporations are finding ways around the rules that still exist. One interesting, brief notice in the Kansai Asahi edition a few days ago said that Kintetsu is starting their own farm factory in Nara. Indoors, completely without pesticides or other chemicals, with grow-lights powered (I believe) by solar. Lettuce and other leafy vegetables for their restaurants and department stores.

If you can't own and use large batches of farmland, then build a factory and bet that the higher yield and high, even quality will more than offset the cost. My hunch is, it will.