Japan’s Farmers Protest Free-Trade Pact Driving Tractors Through Ginza

In an upscale neighborhood where Japanese buy their handbags and smartphones, furious farmers drove their tractors down the main road last week in their latest protest against a controversial, regionwide free-trade pact.

The stunt was an illustration of the way the country’s agricultural forces are pushing up against modern glitz. As Japan nears a self-imposed deadline to decide whether to participate in the U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership, it must first resolve a clash between farmers who think the pact will ruin them and exporters who want to reach new markets with lower tariffs.

Nine other countries, including the United States, have committed to the agreement, which would eliminate tariffs and trade barriers within 10 years. In Japan, though, the prospect of across-the-board trade liberalization has roused fundamental questions about the nation’s shrinking economy — and which of its sectors, business or agriculture, need the most help.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s farmers dug in against free-trade pact.

Japan speeds up TPP decision-making process, unveils plan to back farmers

The government is trying to accelerate its decision on whether to join multilateral negotiations for a Pacific-wide trade pact while compiling a package to support the nation’s farmers, who fear being inundated by cheap imports if Japan decides to enter the pact.

The United States and South Korea finalized a free-trade accord earlier this month, putting additional pressure on Japan to open its markets by joining the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and supporting its he flagging economy by expanding exports.

High-level international economic partnerships should be "consistent" with revitalizing Japanese agriculture, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said Thursday.

Read the rest of the story: Japan speeds up TPP decision-making process, unveils plan to back farmers.