Mon, Nov 07, 2011 - Page 10 News List

Japan reported to be joining Pacific trade pact talks

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is to announce the country will join negotiations on a trans-Pacific trade agreement despite strong opposition from farmers, a report said yesterday.

Noda will make the announcement on Thursday, days before an Asia-Pacific summit in Hawaii where he hopes to join in US-led talks toward forming a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade framework, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

So far the pact negotiations involve the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan would be the second--largest economy in the future TPP if it joined.

However, Japan’s Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives has campaigned vigorously against participation, saying a deal would reduce food security in a country where farmers — especially of rice — enjoy generous government protection, at the cost of high prices for consumers.

Even Noda’s ruling Democratic Party of Japan is deeply divided over the issue, with some senior members, including former farm minister Masahiko Yamada, openly against joining the trade agreement.

An opinion poll by Kyodo News agency released yesterday showed that the Japanese public is sharply divided over the TPP, with 38.7 percent supporting Tokyo’s participation in the trade negotiations, while 36.1 percent are opposed.

Noda has said that he will nonetheless have to make a “political decision” at some point.

The countries involved hope to announce a framework for a deal at a two-day APEC summit starting on Saturday.

“We have to reach a party consensus somehow before Prime Minister Noda leaves for the APEC summit,” the ruling party’s parliamentary affairs chief, Hirofumi Hirano, said yesterday on public broadcaster NHK.

The support rate for Noda’s Cabinet had fallen to 47.1 percent, the poll showed.

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