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Japan to Join Talks on Pacific Trade Deal
USAgNet - 03/18/2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Friday that Japan will join talks on a Pacific trade pact that would oblige the country to open up sheltered industries including farming, long a bastion of protectionism.

According to the Associated Press, the decision to seek participation in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, raised protests from farmers, who are a traditional bastion of support for Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.

Many in Japan, however, see the pact as a way to overcome stubborn resistance to reforms essential for reviving the stagnant economy. In a national address, Abe said Japan has no choice but to opt for the growth that comes with freer trade or lose out to other countries that are capitalizing on such market opening. He repeatedly pledged to guard Japan's national interest and ensure that the trade pact would benefit farmers as well as other Japanese.

Japan's agricultural lobby is small but politically powerful. However, after two decades of stagnation, calls by big business groups such as the Keidanren to join the trade pact or miss out on easier access to key export markets appear to have outweighed objections from farmers.

The average age of Japanese farmers is 66 and hundreds of thousands will retire in the coming years.

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