Okinawan business community expresses concern about Prime Minister Noda’s announcement of participation in TPP-related talks

November 12 2011, Ryukyu Shimpo

On November 11, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda officially announced that Japan will participate in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement (TPP).
Many people in the Okinawan business community expressed concern about Japan’s participation in the TPP talks, saying, “Participation in these talks will have a serious impact on the Okinawan economy. It will destroy Okinawan agriculture.” However, but at the same time, some had positive things to say, such as, “It is important for Japan to be at the negotiating table” and “I expect that Noda will negotiate properly with the countries participating in the TPP.”

Anyu Onaha, head of Japan Agricultural Cooperatives Okinawa, criticized Noda’s announcement, saying, “Japan’s participation in the TPP is an issue that divides opinions within the ruling party, the Democratic Party and the entire nation. With this the case, Japan is undemocratic if the government goes ahead and participates in the negotiations.” He then went even further to say, “We have been looking after Okinawan agriculture within the context of agricultural liberalization. TPP could destroy Japanese agriculture. It is very clear that TPP could also put paid to Okinawan agriculture. I strongly oppose Japan’s participation in TPP.”

Yoshimi Teruya, head of the Okinawa Constructors Association pointed out that the United States government has been requesting that the Japanese government abolish the regional requirement that exclusively limits the location of the tenderer. Teruya said, “Japan’s participation in TPP could lead to the abolishment of this regional requirement, which could be a mortal blow to the regional construction industry, and as a result, the local economy could be seriously affected.” Teruya is opposed to Japan’s participation in TPP, saying, “I will be paying close attention to how the negotiations unfold.”

Shigenobu Asato, head of the Okinawa Convention and Visitors Bureau said, “I am very disappointed that this decision was made so easily, almost as though we needed to avoid missing the boat.” Regarding the impact of Japan’s participation in TPP on Okinawa, Asato said, “An incoming flow of human resources is expected in the field of Okinawan tourism. Okinawa already has a high unemployment rate and the number of foreign migrant workers is expected to increase. This will have a great impact on Okinawa.”

Morihide Ogido, head of the Okinawa Prefectural Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry expressed a sense of caution with regard to Japan’s participation in TPP, saying, “While the pros and cons are being batted back and forth by all parties, we are concerned that the elimination of tariffs could be very detrimental to the local economy in Okinawa. I ask that the government proceed very carefully in the negotiations.”

Yukikazu Kokuba, head of the Council of Okinawa Prefectural Economic Organizations (head of the Okinawa Prefectural Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industry), said, “It is good for Japan to be at the negotiating table. Japan may very well be participating in the TPP talks, but the United States itself has many import restrictions. There are no inherent concerns here with regard to taking part in the talks. It is important for the Japanese government to negotiate properly with the countries participating in the TPP. There it nothing strange about taking part in these talks.”

Shinkou Kuniyoshi, head of the Okinawa Federation of Fisheries Cooperative, expressed his opinion saying, “There is a concern that Japan’s participation in TPP could be detrimental to primary industries, but you cannot tell what will happen unless you actually participate in the talks. I think that it is good that Noda has made efforts to step forward on this. I expect the government to carry out proper negotiations with the countries participating in TPP.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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