Japan, the U.S., and the TPP: You don’t know the half of it
Posted by ampontan on Thursday, November 17, 2011
A free trade environment is beneficial for Japan. That is the national consensus…On the question of whether the prime minister has the ability to negotiate, however, the people don’t think so.
- Former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo
Britain is a world by itself; and we will nothing pay for wearing our own noses.
IT didn’t take long for circumstances to expose the inadequacies of Japan’s new “prime minister”, Noda Yoshihiko. After a mere two crisis-free months, it’s obvious that he lacks the skills at either governance or politics demanded of a national leader. Indeed, it’s an open question at this point whether he is in fact the national leader.
When he took office, some touted the new choice as a safe Democratic Party driver after the vaporous insubstantiality of Hatoyama Yukio and the toxic cluster of erratic electrons that is Kan Naoto. But beyond a constitutional predisposition to ambling along at 45 on the expressway with his hands frozen in position on the wheel, this safe driver is now perceived as a chauffer for the dirigistes of the bureaucracy-that-is-the-government at home — particularly the Finance Ministry — and the delivery boy for governments overseas. Mr. Noda has compounded that problem by behaving as an inert gelatin too incurious to inform himself on the laws of his country or the policies of his own government beyond the instructions received over the horn from the back seat of the Brougham.
The events of the past week have created suspicions that this paleface is speaking to his fellow countrymen with the most forked of tongues about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations. If those well-founded suspicions harden into belief, it could jeopardize Japanese participation in the TPP, as well as the survival of the DPJ government and the party itself.
The fun started hitting the fan last Friday on the afternoon of the 11th, when upper house Diet member Sato Yukari of the opposition LDP questioned Mr. Noda about the TPP. The “prime minister’s” performance was so inept that 30-minute clips of the session began circulating immediately on YouTube. (The industrial media, both in Japan and overseas, ignored it, but I belabor the obvious.)
Ms. Sato asked the “prime minister” about the possibility that domestic law would be distorted by the ISD clauses in a TPP treaty. She was referring to Investor State Dispute (Settlement), which allows entities in Country A to initiate dispute settlement proceedings against Country B under international law, rather than in the courts of Country B, as has been customary in the past.
The first treaty to allow developed nations this option was the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among Canada, the United States, and Mexico. If the Party of The First Part has a beef against the Party of The Second Part in another country, they can demand arbitration under the Arbitration Rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law or the Arbitration (Additional Facility) Rules of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Entities in both Canada and the United States have already created some unpleasantness by employing this option against each other.
Here was Mr. Noda’s answer:
We will negotiate in order to enable a response under Japanese law.
First, note the word “negotiate”. The “prime minister” has been trying to buy time at home, particularly with the TPP opponents in his own party, by insisting that Japan hasn’t decided whether it will “negotiate”. It is only going to hold “discussions” with the related countries first.
At that point the sound shuts off on the video when two men approach the presiding officer for a discussion. (Their conversation is not recorded, and it resembles the scene in an American courtroom when attorneys approach the bench.)
Someone seems to have spoken to Mr. Noda during that time, because when the recording resumes, he adds:
The treaty takes precedence over Japanese law, so we will think of how to respond within the reality that we must respond to that.
A heckler, probably Nishida Shoji of the LDP, retorts:
What are you talking about? How are we going to be able to respond? The treaty takes precedence, so we can’t respond under international law.
The “prime minster” continues:
I didn’t have a detailed knowledge of ISDS, but treaties do take precedence over Japanese law. Therefore, we will not kill or destroy Japanese law to conclude a treaty.
In other words, when Ms. Sato first asked the question about ISD clauses, “Prime Minister” Noda had no idea what she was talking about.
She also presented a hypothetical example of a local government putting public works contracts to bid and restricting the bidding due to concerns about local employment or the hollowing out of the economy. That could generate a demand by overseas contractors for resolution in front of an international body. How, she asked, would you deal with a situation in which a local government puts the national government at risk?
Justice Minister Hiraoka Hideo was the picture of matter-of-fact, banal self-satisfaction when he answered for the government. Of course, he said, they had every intention of allowing international rules to apply, because it would be discrimination against other countries otherwise. Japan would be a good international partner.
Ms. Sato dismissed the idea that Japan could negotiate favorable terms for the treaty framework. Japan’s participation would begin in six months, she noted, and by then it would be too late to have an impact on the general structure.
As for the issue of ISD, she dismissed Mr. Noda out of hand:
Constitutionally, this is an elementary matter, so I’m flabbergasted that you couldn’t give an answer based on what is in the Constitution. To declare our participation in TPP without understanding this is to disrespect the people.
TPP supporter Eda Kenji, the secretary-general of Your Party, understood immediately that this line of attack presented a legitimate threat in the arena of public opinion. He attempted a counterattack on his blog this week by pointing out that Japan is already a part of 20 treaties containing such clauses, starting with a 1978 treaty with Egypt. He reported that no one has sought international arbitration against Japan stemming from those treaties.
Mr. Eda’s mention of Japanese-Egyptian trade is instructive, however, if only to vitiate his argument. Japan has a trade surplus with Egypt. The Japanese embassy in Cairo states that the primary Japanese exports to that country are transportation equipment and electric machinery, while the Egyptians export petroleum, petroleum products, cotton, and cotton textiles. Considering the relative economic development of the two countries, none of these categories is likely to generate a dispute of unfair access. He does not identify the other 19 countries Japan has such treaties with, though the United States is not one of them. Until demonstrated otherwise, it would be reasonable to assume that many, if not most, of those countries have trade relationships with Japan similar to those of Egypt; i.e., concentrated in a few sectors that supplement mutual needs.
That is unlikely to be the case in any treaty relationship with the litigation-loving Americans, however.
What country are you the prime minister of?
Fukushima Mizuho, head of Japan’s Social Democrats, is almost always a waste of air, water, and space in the enclosed hothouse of Japanese politics. But to give credit where credit is due, she was pertinent, direct, and relentless in her questioning of the “prime minister” following Ms. Sato on Friday. She pummeled him for not saying a word about Japanese participation in TPP negotiations in the Diet, yet promising to people overseas that Japan would participate.
You’re going to get on a plane to go to the APEC summit later today, but we’re here in the Diet now. Why aren’t you saying anything?
She added, with perfect justification:
* “Why won’t you make the declaration to participate in TPP in the Diet?”
* “You won’t make the declaration in the Diet, and at home you’re just like a dojo fish in the mud, so why can you go overseas and make that declaration?”
* “Just what country are you the prime minister of?”
* “For whose purpose are you conducting politics?”
The safe-driving chauffer, unwilling or unable to deviate from the road map, only repeated that the government was in the process of reaching a consensus, and that he would discuss it sometime later. A particular favorite was this word game:
We will participate in discussions with the related countries with an eye toward joining TPP negotiations.
That night, Mr. Noda met at the Kantei with Henry Kissinger, who stopped by on his way to Okayama to participate in a forum. The Japanese media reports said he conveyed to Mr. Kissinger his government’s policy of participating in TPP negotiations (not discussions). Mr. Kissinger was delighted to hear it.
Mr. Noda flew to the APEC summit in Honolulu and back last weekend, and well and truly stepped in some very deep poi. After discussions with President Barack Obama, the Americans announced that the Japanese “prime minister” had placed all Japanese goods and services on the negotiating table for TPP. The repercussions were audible on the other side of the Pacific.
Japan’s foreign ministry complained to the Americans that Mr. Noda said no such thing, and insisted that he had only committed to participating in discussions. The ministry claimed they filed an objection with the American government and received an informal acknowledgement of the error.
Question Time in the upper house resumed after Mr. Noda’s Hawaiian weekend. On Tuesday, Yamamoto Ichita of the LDP took up where the Sato/Fukushima tag team left off and amped up the voltage. If anyone thought the “prime minister” was capable of salvaging the situation, listening to his answers soon disabused them of that notion.
Mr. Yamamoto kept pressing for simple answers to simple questions, but never got one. He asked Mr. Noda several times about the discrepancy between the American and Japanese versions of the Japanese promise. He wanted to know why the Americans had not formally withdrawn and corrected their earlier statement. Mr. Noda robotically repeated that the U.S. government “recognized their error”. No, he would not demand that the Americans change their statement. No, he never said that to begin with. Japan would keep stating the truth about their negotiating position. How did the Japanese government intend to do that, Mr. Yamamoto asked. No clear answer was forthcoming.
It is already past the point at which anyone will believe a Japanese government “statement of truth” on the matter, however. Here was the headline on a 15 November piece on the Voice of America website:
Noda Pledge to Join Trans-Pacific Partnership
The VOA tried to soften it a bit in the body, but the intent is the same. Note how they mention that everyone has concerns about Japan without mentioning everyone’s mutual concerns about them:
Noda’s endorsement of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership is merely the first step in a longer process that still must overcome opposition at home as well as concerns from the nine other TPP member nations involved in the talks.
Mr. Yamamoto asked several more questions — several more times for each — but Mr. Noda played talking Tar Baby:
Q: Why is the U.S. saying that you made that promise?
A: I haven’t said a word about that.
Q: Will you clearly state that non-participation is an option for Japan?
A: Nothing is 100% certain.
Q: Will rice be an exception in the treaty?
A: It will basically be an exception, but I can’t give a 100% guarantee.
Q: If the government is going to compensate farmers for opening the market, where is the money going to come from?
A slight note of hysteria arose in Mr. Noda’s voice on two occasions, but he soldiered on with a story that no one believes.
The White House isn’t bothering to pay attention. The WH website hasn’t altered its account of Mr. Noda’s statement. In fact, they’re not going to, either:
The White House said Monday it stands by an earlier press briefing on a Japan-U.S. summit Saturday and does not intend to revise it, despite a protest from Tokyo that the Japanese premier was misquoted in it over his position on the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative.
In response to reporters’ questions, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “The readout that we put out was based on the private consultations that (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama and (Japanese) Prime Minister (Yoshihiko) Noda had. It was based also on the public declarations from Prime Minister Noda and other members of his administration.”
The statement is still accurate and “we don’t anticipate revising” it, Earnest said, while declining to clarify whether the White House has been asked to revise the statement.
The statement, available on the White House website, said Obama “welcomed Prime Minister Noda’s statement that he would put all goods, as well as services, on the negotiating table for trade liberalization.”
But the Japanese government said Noda had only explained the government’s basic policy in general on a comprehensive economic partnership and that the U.S. side misinterpreted it as an explanation of Noda’s stance on the TPP.
Who’s telling the truth?
Somebody’s lying. The United States government, regardless of the White House occupant, is certainly capable of that, particularly when it comes to squeezing an “ally” — but not this time. Here’s an excerpt from a Japanese Cabinet Decision rendered on 9 November 2010 following last year’s APEC summit in Yokohama. The emphasis is mine:
Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships
2. Concrete action to strengthen comprehensive economic partnerships
On the basis of the international and regional environment surrounding Japan, the Government of Japan will take the following concrete steps to strengthen comprehensive economic partnerships with major trading partner countries and regions.
With regard to EPAs or broader regional economic partnerships that are politically and economically important and will be of especially great benefit to Japan, the Government of Japan, while taking into consideration the sensitivity of trade in certain products, will subject all goods to negotiations for trade liberalization and, through such negotiations, pursue high-level economic partnerships.
“Prime Minister” Noda told Fukushima Mizuho in the Diet that the government was in the process of reaching a consensus when he should have known that the government’s own documents show the fix was in a year ago, unbeknownst to the public. (To be sure, the Senkakus incident was still dominating the news.)
Mr. Noda was serving in the Cabinet at the time as “finance minister”. One might expect that he would have read the decision of a Cabinet in which he was a key member, but let’s not forget whom we’re dealing with. This is the same guy who didn’t know the law about Bank of Japan purchases of government debt, and didn’t know about ISDs in international treaties.
So what’s going on here?
To find out what’s really at stake, let’s return briefly to Sato Yukari’s questioning of Mr. Noda in the Diet on Friday.
Ms. Sato presented a large chart with bar graphs and figures based on the research of someone affiliated with the Cabinet Office — in other words, someone in the government. The graphs compared the benefits of Japan’s participation in the TPP with the so-called ASEAN Plus Six. That’s an emerging free trade zone that would consist of the 10 ASEAN nations plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. (There’s also an ASEAN Plus Three that includes Japan, South Korea, and China only. ASEAN + 6 came about because the Japanese were worried about Chinese dominance of the +3 arrangement.) The chart also had a section showing the benefits that would accrue to the United States under TPP. America is not part of either ASEAN scheme.
As Ms. Sato explained using the chart, the Cabinet Office’s analysis clearly shows the benefits for Japan would be much greater with ASEAN + 6 than they would be with TPP. It also showed that America would benefit more from the TPP than Japan would.
Why then, Ms. Sato asked, is Japan not pursuing ASEAN + 6, but hot to trot with TPP? Mr. Noda tried to explain that the government had no preference for one over the other. He said they’re only “thinking about” ASEAN + 6 (kento was the word he used), but that TPP had already started, and they had to move on that one.
That’s another porkie, as the Brits would say. Ms. Sato pointed out that Japan will not be involved in TPP discussions for another six months, so it will already be too late to influence the structure of the talks.
But the Japanese government has been doing more than “thinking about” ASEAN + 6, and they’ve been doing it for a few years now:
At the second East Asia Summit (EAS) held on 15 January 2007 in Cebu, the Leaders of ASEAN and six other nations (China, India, Japan, S Korea, Australia and New Zealand, agreed to launch a study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA) among EAS participants. An underlying ambition was the establishment of an ASEAN + 6 FTA.
A free trade zone has already been created in the region:
Starting the first day of 2010, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand can import and export almost all goods across their borders at no tariff.
As of 1 January, for ASEAN-6 an additional 7,881 tariff lines will come down to zero tariffs, bringing the total tariff lines traded under the Common Effective Preferential Tariffs for ASEAN Free Trade Area (CEPT-AFTA) to 54,457 or 99.11%. Additionally, with the reduction, the average tariff rate for these countries is expected to further decrease from 0.79% in 2009 to just 0.05% in 2010. In 2008, intra-ASEAN import value of commodities for these 7,881 tariff lines amounted to US$ 22.66 billion, or 11.84% of ASEAN-6 import value within ASEAN.
Also last year, ACFTA (the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area) came into effect between the 11 countries. It is now the world’ s largest free trade area by population and third-largest by trade volume (behind the EU and NAFTA). Tariffs were eliminated on 90% of all categories. They are near zero for trade between China and the six original ASEAN nations, and are zero among those six countries.
WTF is going on here?
The Mainichi Shimbun explained it succinctly in a Japanese-language op-ed. They think the U.S. is determined to obstruct any trade regime in Asia that it isn’t a part of, for both economic and security reasons. They are using trade and commerce as a weapon to fight the Chinese in the Pacific, and Japan is caught in the middle of the Great Game.
Chinese Ministry of Commerce sources say they prefer the ASEAN + 3 arrangement, but they’re flexible. They also understand that they and the U.S. are involved in a tug-of-war over Japan, and think the Japanese are using TPP to patch over the strains in the relationship with the U.S. that emerged over the Marine air base in Okinawa.
Further, they are concerned about Japanese participation because it would provide a fillip to Japanese growth, reduce their own economic strength, and tend to weaken their position in dealing with the U.S. As far as the TPP goes, the Chinese are biding their time as they watch whether all the nations involved will be able to work out their differences. Finally, they think the TPP is too ambitious and doesn’t take enough consideration of newly emerging countries with growth markets.
The Russians aren’t involved in either arrangement, but they have a similar view. Though the TPP was started by three countries (Chile, New Zealand and Singapore), and joined by Brunei shortly thereafter, they think the Americans took over the process because they perceived it as a useful vehicle for regaining the influence they’ve been losing in Asia and for blocking the Chinese.
Of course the Yanks are also in it for the money, as Japan’s Cabinet Office survey demonstrates. Some in Japan opposed to or doubtful of the TPP suspect it is to allow Americans to conduct trade in the region under their own rules, including their export taxes and tariffs. American agriculture is also heavily protected, and if they can push their own tariffs into the agreement as a base, it could wind up implanting protected trade in a new form.
Meanwhile, in talks with ASEAN, China has brought up the subject of using the yuan as the common regional currency. Indeed, the Chinese claim they already have the common Asian currency. In one of their occasional stabs at cleverness, Britain’s Economist referred to the yuan as the redback.
The pols and the polls
Noda Yoshihiko’s safe driving skills will be tested when he tries to steer any TPP treaty through the Diet, as is required by the Constitution. There are 480 members in the lower house, so 241 is the magic number for passage. A media outlet’s informal survey of lower house members last week found more than 220 members opposed the treaty, including nearly one-third of the ruling DPJ’s delegation. If those numbers hold, the treaty would still squeak through, but it’s not a lock when one considers how Mr. Noda has handled the political automobile so far. According to the Japanese Constitution, the lower house decision will be the final determination if the upper house rejects it.
It’s quite a different story in prefectural assemblies, however. The Asahi Shimbun conducted a survey that found 44 of 47 prefectures opposed to TPP, often by large margins. A recent vote in Chiba, next to Tokyo, was 72-22 opposed.
The results of public polls are fascinating. The industrial media is playing up the results of a recent Yomiuri poll, which showed a public thumbs up by a 51%-35% margin, but that’s the only one with majority approval. A recent Asahi poll had it at 46%-28%.
Other polls are not as positive. The NNN poll (TV) had it 43.7%-35.7%. FNN, another TV network, came in at 46.5%-35.2%, and the numbers from the quasi-public NHK were 34%-21%.
No, it is not beyond the inclination or the abilities of either the Asahi or the Yomiuri to doctor the questions or the composition of those surveyed to get the desired results — particularly if the Foreign Ministry let it be known what results they desired.
More intriguing are the numbers behind the numbers. The Asahi poll found that 84% of the respondents thought the government’s explanation was insufficient, while Yomiuri’s response for the same question was 86%. That means there’s a nation full of people unhappy about what little the government is telling them, which suggests the current poll readings for approval/disapproval are just skin deep.
In addition, the undecideds in the surveys range from a low of roughly 18% to as much as 38% in one poll. There’s a lot of potential for a major swing one way or the other, and we all know in which direction any swing is likely to occur.
Here’s another one— the NNN poll also asked the respondents whether they were uneasy or hopeful about TPP. The results:
Why should anyone take seriously the results of an up or down question in the face of nearly universal dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of the issue and a majority in one poll more worried than hopeful about the treaty? Refer once again to Mr. Abe’s quote at the top.
Of course the mass media — particularly the foreign media — is thrilled that the farmers have wiped the dirt and dung off their boots and driven the buckboard to town to protest. Colorful videos of a farmer demonstration are circulating. But FNN had the wit to actually poll by occupational sector (as well as age). Their survey found that people in the agriculture, forestry, or fishing industries were evenly split at 45%-45%. While there is strong opposition in that sector, it is not as strong as the media would want you to believe. (Is that because the indolent louts who write for newspapers can’t be bothered to reexamine their assumptions, or is it that they prefer that narrative and they’re just as unimaginative as Mr. Noda?)
And here’s one more: All these polls are conducted by random digit dialing (RDD) to fixed-line telephones. That eliminates many younger people who sleep with their cell phones but don’t have any of those old clunkers with wires going into the wall. The FNN poll broken down by age shows that people over 60 supported the treaty by 52.8%, but only 36.3% of those in their 20s backed it. Thus, the numbers might look quite different if the younger demographic’s views were better factored in. (Also, 54.2% of men were in favor but only 39.3% of women.)
You don’t have to be a psephologist to know which way the wind’s blowing for Mr. Noda’s support ratings. The NNN poll had it down to 40%, which is a Kan-like drop from the 60% after he took office in September. The non-support is climbing and is now up to 34.2% in that poll, 8.1 points higher than the previous month. FNN had the Cabinet support down to 42%, while a TV Asahi poll this week pegged it at 39.5%.
What do we know?
Here’s a partial list of the conclusions we can draw from all this.
* Noda Yoshihiko has no business being in a real Cabinet, much less being “prime minister”. When serving as “finance minister”, his position in opposition to BOJ purchases of government bonds was based on his ignorance of the law. As “prime minister”, he was ignorant of a critical aspect of the TPP treaty that would irrevocably change Japan.
Not that he would tell the public even if he did know.
* Custom and courtesy require that everyone refer to Noda Yoshihiko as the “prime minister”, but he seems to have little influence on the decision-making process or control over what the government actually does. He’s what the mob lawyers call a mouthpiece. Indeed, Japan’s position on TPP was determined a year ago. It’s already taxing his abilities just to drive the Miss Daisies of Kasumigaseki and keep the car on the road.
* He fairly lays himself open to the charge that he and his government give precedence to American economic growth in the TPP rather than to Japanese economic growth in ASEAN + 6.
* European MP Daniel Hannan of Great Britain observes that the French have the terms pays légal, which now refers to the group composed of politicians, civil servants, business leaders, and newspaper editors, and pays reel, which refers to everyone else. Since the former are making the decisions everywhere else, why should Japan be the exception? Also, as in the Western world, some people in the Japanese branch of the pays légal detest the concept of nation states. They will support any international treaties that require countries to subordinate domestic law as a necessary step on the royal road to global governance. Why do you think Kan Naoto was so taken with the idea of TPP?
* Mr. Noda has no problem lying about an issue that will have substantial domestic consequences either to the people or to the rest of the political class, in public at any rate. He’s not very good at it, either. During his wind-up-doll line of defense in the Diet, he came off as a talking life-sized cardboard figure of Col. Sanders at a KFC regional sales managers’ convention. But then he knows he dare not give the real explanation. Not that it makes any difference. Everyone in Nagata-cho knows what’s going on anyway.
* Another reason he can’t come clean is because of the strong opposition to the TPP in his own party. Coming out and saying what everyone knows could wind up destroying the DPJ. In fact, that’s the paramount reason the DPJ has no business as a ruling party in the first place. The potential for collapse is why they are incapable of taking a stand on any major issue. They’ve abdicated governance to the bureaucracy as a result. Some people in Japanese media circles outside the industrial core think bureaucratic control is more blatant now than at any time in recent history.
* All the talk about opening or closing the country, the opposition by farmers, the exclusive focus on TPP, blah blah blah woof woof, is so much vaudeville and just as passé. We’ve got bleacher seats for the early 21st Great Game, and it’s all about making Japan choose sides.
Predictions aren’t what I do, but here’s one anyway: Noda Yoshihiko will not handle this very well. Here’s another: If Japan doesn’t join the TPP, or his government falls as a result, watch the foreign media and the pretentious blogs get it all wrong in their commentary.
Regardless of what happens, however, even those supporters of free trade — and I’m one of them — have to admit that all the issues raised here are legitimate and cannot be waved aside with airy-fairy platitudes. Being a neo-liberal is one thing, but being a neo-conservative is another.
* The bilingual website Seetell makes an excellent and often overlooked point:
(I)n order to join, Japan will have to be “approved” by the current TPP member nations. That poses few problems for Japan from any of the nations except the US. And because the US Congress will have the final say on whether Japan is allowed to join, Japan will be forced to concede most of its negotiating points to the US before the negotiations even begin…
Plainly stated, Japan will have to negotiate first with the US – and without input from other member nations – before it will be approved to join the pact. The bulk of Japan’s negotiations will occur before the official negotiations begin.
The US has totally usurped the TPP from the original nations as a vehicle to gain access and influence into the Asian economy. Now, it sits as the sole judge and determinant as to the terms of the agreement.
* Before becoming “prime minister”, Mr. Noda was best known for delivering political speeches at his local train station every morning for years to the morning rush-hour commuters. One has to wonder: What the deuce did he tell them?
* Only the merest of glimpses of the real issues are being afforded in the mainstream Western press. The New York Times this week ran a lengthy article about United States pressure on China. Here’s all they could find to say about the TPP:
Mr. Obama wants to appear strong in pressing Beijing. He made headway on an ambitious American plan to create a Pacific free trade zone, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that, for now, would not include China.
There was no mention of ASEAN + 6 in the article, but then we should all have seen through the tiresome fiction of full (or even intelligent) coverage from the New York Times by now.
It’s also noteworthy that the Times refers to the TPP as an “ambitious American plan”, when that certainly wasn’t how it started. Even the Times can be jingoists, it seems, as long as their Golden Boy is in the White House, rather than one of the evil, wicked, mean, and nasties of the other party.
* I listened to Yamamoto Ichita’s questioning of Noda Yoshihiko on NHK radio while working on a translation. Mr. Noda did not perform well. On NHK radio news that night, the announcer briefly mentioned one of Mr. Yamamoto’s questions without replaying it, and they ran a single, brief clip of one of the few times Mr. Noda gave a lucid and crisp answer.
Yes, there is media bias in Japan, too.
* It was puzzling to see that the Voice of America article was written by that well-known peddler of Weird Japan stories and FCCJ barfly, Justin McCurry. Justo is a Brit who, the last time I saw a sample from the cloaca that constitutes his body of work, was affiliated with The Guardian.
If it is the Voice of America, why do they speak through a Brit from an often anti-American newspaper? Do they think no Americans in Japan are capable of producing the same lukewarm dribble of the type at that link? Here’s one of the sentences from his piece on the TPP:
But it could mean stiffer competition for some domestic industries, especially Japan’s farmers who could struggle to compete against cheaper imports.
Yeah, I guess it “could”, couldn’t it? If the idea is to cook the gruel that thin, what’s the bleedin’ point other than filling website space?
* Now Canada wants to join the TPP discussions. They also want a bilateral trade deal with Japan.
* The Australian government says that TPP is an important priority for them, but they also have serious concerns about ISDS:
Some countries have sought to insert investor-state dispute resolution clauses into trade agreements. Typically these clauses empower businesses from one country to take international legal action against the government of another country for alleged breaches of the agreement, such as for policies that allegedly discriminate against those businesses and in favour of the country’s domestic businesses.
The Gillard Government supports the principle of national treatment — that foreign and domestic businesses are treated equally under the law. However, the Government does not support provisions that would confer greater legal rights on foreign businesses than those available to domestic businesses. Nor will the Government support provisions that would constrain the ability of Australian governments to make laws on social, environmental and economic matters in circumstances where those laws do not discriminate between domestic and foreign businesses. The Government has not and will not accept provisions that limit its capacity to put health warnings or plain packaging requirements on tobacco products or its ability to continue the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
In the past, Australian Governments have sought the inclusion of investor-state dispute resolution procedures in trade agreements with developing countries at the behest of Australian businesses. The Gillard Government will discontinue this practice. If Australian businesses are concerned about sovereign risk in Australian trading partner countries, they will need to make their own assessments about whether they want to commit to investing in those countries.
One Australian op-ed opposed to TPP made this point:
In its negotiations over the AUSFTA during 2003-04, the office of the United States Trade Representative focused in particular on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (which provides heavily subsidised access for patients to listed medicines under patent), its process of blood procurement (which for health and security reasons is not open to international competition) and its laws mandating minimum levels of local broadcast content on television. The USTR sees these policies as “protectionist” and wants them abandoned, regardless of Australia’s arguments that they are in our national interest.
The Australians have no trouble standing up for Australia. Does anyone think the Japanese government is capable of doing the same?