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Economy

Japan's farm co-op chief urges spending to buttress agriculture

Choe Okuno

TOKYO -- Japan should spend to shore up its farming base in cushioning the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty while protecting existing tariffs in key areas, the incoming head of the country's leading agricultural umbrella group says.

     Choe Okuno, who takes over in August as president of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, or JA-Zenchu, spoke to The Nikkei about trade developments.

     "We must build a world where people and goods can move freely between countries," Okuno said. Yet pointing out that countries have defined boundaries, he add that "the Diet's decision to leave tariffs in five key areas untouched should be respected," referring to such sectors as rice.

     Adoption of the TPP will bring intense discussions over spending to implement the agreement.

     "We spent 6 trillion yen ($47.9 billion) on new policies after Uruguay Round negotiations on the [General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade] in 1994, but the agricultural sector did not get any stronger," Okuno said. Spending on TPP policies, he said, "should be used to strengthen the industry's core and promote resilient and sustainable agriculture."

     The Diet likely will revise Japan's agricultural laws in the current session to weaken JA-Zenchu's power in favor of regional farm cooperatives. The central body's strong leadership was intended to "bring together cooperatives facing bankruptcy and otherwise strengthen the industry," Okuno said, though he admitted that "we failed to keep up with changing times." Okuno pledged to work with companies and other organizations to overhaul the organization.

(Nikkei)

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