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Terms of Japan's entry to TPPA talks bad news for NZ

15 March 2013

For immediate release

Terms of Japan's entry to TPPA talks bad news for NZ, ‘surrender of sovereignty’ for Japan

‘Japan’s Prime Minister Abe will announce this afternoon that Japan will seek to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPPA) negotiations. He already has US endorsement to do so’, says Professor Jane Kelsey who has just returned from observing the Singapore round of the talks.

Several days ago Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party cleared the way for the announcement. However, the Party’s resolution also called for Japan to maintain tariffs on key farm products, especially rice, wheat, beef, dairy products and sugar, and defend the public health insurance system.

Yesterday, current and recent members of the Diet (Parliament) who have been campaigning against the agreement for several years released an open letter to Abe that said Japan would have to accept any text that was agreed by the time they joined the negotiations, sight unseen.

The letter objected that the denial of 'any right or opportunity to set the terms or to alter terms that undermine the national interests of Japan’ was ‘a fundamental surrender of sovereignty’.

They also revealed that the US Trade Representative had told other chief negotiators they needed to complete their bilateral pre-entry discussions with Japan and approve its entry by July. [An English translation of the complete text is below]

Once a 90-day notification period to the US Congress expired Japan would be able to join the talks in September, one month before the political leaders of the existing eleven countries hope to sign the completed deal.

‘If this is true, the US has effected a double play on New Zealand’, said Professor Kelsey.

Trade Minister Groser said New Zealand would welcome Japan’s participation ‘once we have established procedures for their entry that are acceptable to their governments and to ours’. That was widely taken to mean Japan’s agreement to comprehensive agricultural liberalisation in line with the statement of the TPPA leaders in Honolulu in November 2011.

Australia has been trying unsuccessfully to achieve that goal in a free trade negotiation with Japan since 2007.

New Zealand would have just over three months to get Japan to agree or give way to a timeframe that appears to have been imposed unilaterally by the US.

'Even if Japan agrees in principle to consider opening dairy market access, that is just the first step in the process', according to Professor Kelsey.

‘Assuming the US continues to delay any substantial discussion of dairy market access to its own markets until September, the US and Japan could then join forces in demanding flexibility and stymie the one gain that New Zealand government has said is a bottom line and without which it will walk away from the TPPA’.

--

Dear PM Abe,

It has been widely reported that this week you will announce a formal decision to join negotiations to establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.

We recognized the terms under which other countries, namely Mexico and Canada, have joined TPP negotiations were grossly unfair. Effectively, terms were dictated to these nations, which were told either they could comply or not join the talks.

In particular, these entrants were required to agree that they would not seek to reopen any matters that had already been agreed to during the previous three years of negotiations. Further, they were forbidden from offering new proposals with respect to the numerous subjects that had already been decided.

In sum, they were told that if they wanted to join TPP talks, they would be required to simply agree to all of the expansive terms negotiated by the other countries in any of the agreement’s 29 chapters of binding rules.

All of Japan’s current and future domestic laws, regulations and administrative procedures would be required to conform with these rules established by other countries. In addition to trade in goods, including agriculture, these rules would severely limit Japan’s regulation of a wide range of sensitive matters such as foreign investors, postal, banking, insurance, energy, telecommunications, medicine approvals and prices, food and product safety, and more.

In addition, the newly entering parties were denied access to the confidential negotiating texts that they were being required to accept. That means that they were required to agree to accept texts that they could not review in advance to assess the implications for their countries. Instead, they were required to rely solely on whatever informal assurances they had received from other TPP parties with respect to what the texts would require.

We understand that at the March Singapore Round of TPP negotiations, U.S. trade officials informed other countries’ TPP negotiators of a process by which Japan would be allowed to join the agreement. U.S. officials have indicated that Japan has agreed to the same disrespectful, unfair process imposed on Mexico and Canada for accession to the TPP. The U.S. instructed the other TPP countries to complete their bilateral consultations with Japan by July.

Japan would be allowed to join an agreement that has been negotiated by other countries, without any right or opportunity to set the terms or to alter terms that undermine the national interests of Japan. This is a fundamental surrender of sovereignty.

If Japan is about to announce its desire to enter these negotiations, we are seeking your assurance that Japan will not be required to comply with the unacceptable process imposed on Canada and Mexico. We ask you state publicly the process that Japan will follow and the terms that have been agreed with the other TPP negotiating parties and to table a written assurance to this effect in the Diet.

March 13, 2013

National Coalition for Commenting on TPP


ENDS

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