Japan's Abe in on trade pact talks after BOJ win
AFP and APTOKYO -- Japan's hard-charging prime minister on Friday said he wanted in on talks to forge a huge trade pact, the latest bold move from a man who says he is determined to lick the frail economy into shape.
March 16, 2013, 12:06 am TWN
With caveats aimed squarely at reassuring the cosseted farming industry, Shinzo Abe said Japan could not afford to miss negotiations on thrashing out the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The announcement came just hours after his pick for central bank chief was approved by parliament.
“A huge economic bloc that would account for roughly a third of the world economy is about to begin,” Abe told a news conference.
“What the TPP is aiming to achieve is to make the Pacific Ocean a sea where goods, services and investment are freely exchanged.”
Opponents claim it could be a body blow to the country's aging farmers, removing the sky-high tariffs that have sheltered them and sending many to the wall.
Japan's rural heartland is a crucial source of support for Abe's brand of conservative nationalism and any suggestion that farmers will lose their unparalleled protection could be politically costly for him. But, said the premier, the agricultural sector could not stand still.
“I am sure that Japan's delicious and safe farm products will become popular all over the world,” he said.
“The TPP is not a crisis but, rather, a huge chance. I have heard many who worry that Japan's agriculture would be devastated if we join.”
“I promise that I will protect Japan's farm industry and Japan's food industry by any means.”
The TPP forms a vital plank in U.S. President Barack Obama's vaunted “pivot” to Asia, and is seen by some as part of a U.S. bid to contain China's rising economic might.