Japanese group sues to stop TPP talks

Masahiko Yamada Law OfficeTokyo lawyer Masahiko Yamada, 2012-12 Japan minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

TOKYO — A former Japanese agricultural minister is leading a legal challenge of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement that is being negotiated by 12 nations, including the U.S. and Japan.

Masahiko Yamada is leading a group of 1,063 people that have filed a 45,650,000 yen — about $370,000 — lawsuit against the Japanese government in Tokyo District Court.

The group aims to halt the Japanese government’s participation in the TPP negotiations on constitutional grounds.

A 2005 pact between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore, the TPP originally called for the 90 percent reduction of all tariffs between member countries by 2006. Tariffs were to decrease to zero by this year.

In the past few years, the U.S., Japan, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam have been negotiating to join the TPP.

The plaintiffs suing the government include eight Japanese parliament members, 157 lawyers, farmers and celebrities including writers, musicians and actors.

The group also includes journalists and individual representatives of consumer cooperatives, labor unions and farming associations.

The plaintiffs demand the Japanese government be enjoined from negotiating the TPP, a declaration and confirmation that the government’s negotiating the trade pact violates the constitution of Japan and that the government pay each plaintiff 10,000 yen, or about $81.

Yamada was minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries from 2009 to 2010 under the Democratic Party of Japan administration.

The former rancher left the party in 2012 over then-prime minister Yoshihiko Noda’s decision to participate in the TPP negotiations.

Yamada’s group opposes the TPP on constitutional grounds, arguing the Diet — the Japanese parliament — is the highest organ of state power, and shall be the sole lawmaking organ of the state and that the cabinet, upon concluding any treaty, must obtain the Parliament’s approval.

The TPP forces participating countries to review all their laws to determine if they are consistent with the trade agreement and to revise them if they are not.

They also argue consumers would be negatively affected by the trade pact, as it would do away with ingredient lists. This would cause problems for the 4.5 percent of Japanese children who suffer from allergies to dairy, wheat, peanuts or emulsifiers, Yamada said in an interview with Capital Press.

“If children with dairy allergies eat sweets containing cheese, they may die,” he said.

Because of the TPP, sanitary and phytosanitary standards will also be lowered, he argues.

For example, peanuts coming in from the U.S. may have been sprayed with certain pesticides, the use of which has not yet been decided in Japan by the government, and nobody will even know, Yamada said.

“We will have to show scientific evidence that the pesticides are bad for health, and meanwhile, people will be consuming them,” he said. “Putting Japanese agriculture under pressure, the TPP also goes against constitutional guarantees of Japanese people’s right to a stable supply of food, as well as the right of agricultural workers to make their living through agriculture and dairy farming.”

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