Global Policy Forum

Kan Vows to Push Free-Trade Deal

Japan's Prime Minister plans to sign the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement with the EU, US, South Korea, and Australia. The regional trade agreement will eliminate all tariffs within ten years. The US has an interest in concluding the FTA, which will provide more trade with the US and exclude China.


By Yoree Koh

January 1, 2011

Japan's embattled prime minister vowed to intensify his push for a controversial free-trade agreement, using his New Year's statement to promise progress on one of his top policy initiatives, despite his political weakness.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he will focus this year on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and will seek the overhaul of Japan's agricultural sector that would be required to join the pact. Mr. Kan also said he will pursue economic partnership agreements with the European Union, South Korea and Australia, in a New Year's statement released Saturday.

In the New Year's message the prime minister laid out goals for 2011 in broad terms that include steps to help reignite Japan's economic formidability. Japan will "seek new possibilities in agriculture, forestry and fisheries," while also promoting free trade, he said.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he will focus this year on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Mr. Kan's ability to win the reforms needed to make those policy changes-or even to stay in office much longer-is unclear. A flurry of recent public opinion polls show his popular support rate has fallen below 30%, a level that leaves him little political capital to make tough reforms.

On the trade agreement, the prime minister faces tough resistance from farm lobbies and fellow party politicians in his battle to lift heavy tariffs that have long protected the domestic agricultural sector from overseas competition. Mr. Kan's plans to initiate talks to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in early November sparked broadsides from Japanese farming groups.

The regional trade agreement seeks to eliminate all tariffs among member nations in 10 years. While the pact would pinch the country's declining agricultural sector even more, it would help make Japanese manufacturers more competitive on the international stage. Facing increasingly tough competition from China and fearing the empowerment of South Korean rivals as a result of Seoul's aggressive trade liberalization, Japanese manufacturers are fighting hard to get the government to commit to the agreement.


FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.