TOKYO -- The sooner an agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership is reached, the faster the effort to free up trade and investment can start benefiting the Japanese economy, freshly appointed Agriculture Minister Koya Nishikawa told reporters Thursday.
Excerpts from the session follow.
Q: The U.S. seems to be looking to wrap up the TPP negotiations this year.
A: We see the direction we want to be going: the Japanese economy will prosper if there's a TPP agreement. But if a deadline is set for ending negotiations by such and such a date, we lose our bargaining chips. Our stance in the negotiations respects the resolutions passed by the farm, forestry and fisheries committees of both Diet houses (which oppose granting concessions on rice, wheat and other sensitive farm goods).
Q: How much of an economic benefit would the TPP have?
A: A U.S. think tank estimates that it would give a $100 billion boost to the Japanese economy and a $75 billion boost to the U.S. The exact number depends on various factors, but it's true that there would be benefits. We're going to make our own estimates in Japan.
Q: How do you see the outlook for reforming agricultural cooperatives?
A: The Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives and its local organizations have played an important role in the postwar era. Nowadays, almost no cooperatives are struggling financially. (We need to think about) what sort of a centralized system ought to be protected now under the Agricultural Cooperatives Act.
Q: What do Japanese farming, forestry and fisheries need to do to become more competitive?
A: The European Union has a population of 500 million; the U.S., more than 300 million. I would like to see us exporting rice, beef, dairy products and other domestic goods to Europe and America, not just Southeast Asia.