LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Japan's bid to join Trans-Pacific Partnership troubling

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 | 1:26 p.m. CDT

Dear Editor,

Our government has been negotiating with the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a comprehensive free trade agreement with eight nations in the Asia-Pacific region — for quite a long time, and the eighth (and hopefully final) round of negotiations is scheduled to take place this month.

I am troubled by Japan’s call to join the agreement now that the final details are very nearly in place.

Japan has a history of putting up barriers to trade, and for the Japanese government to ask to join the agreement so late in the process after so many of the details have been ironed out is a tall order. This won't give the U.S. or any of the other eight countries involved in the deal adequate time to ensure Japan is really going to “play fair” after signing the agreement.

Persistent use of protectionist tactics in Japan has impacted many American industries — grain, beef, steelmaking, construction — but nowhere is it more prevalent than in the automotive industry.

For every one car that American companies send to Japan, Japanese companies send 180 to the U.S. Of the 6 million cars sold in Japan last year, only 8,000 were imported from America.

There is no doubt that this has had a negative impact on the domestic auto industry, and allowing this protectionism to continue under a free trade agreement would be unconscionable.

I know that free trade is good for our country and good for American workers. I just hope that our representatives in Congress and Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill will work to make sure every nation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership will agree to make trade truly free.

Ernie Lee lives in Columbia.

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Paul Allaire September 19, 2011 | 11:08 a.m.

Oh please. Can you really blame someone in Japan for not wanting to drive an American car?

(Report Comment)
on baba September 21, 2011 | 2:55 p.m.

What the writer of this article fails to understand about the TPPA, is that Japan's hesitancy to sign this is because it is very unpopular. Since NAFTA, US led free trade agreements have only been popular among big business and investment leaders, and rarely if ever been popular to the people. Protections are good, it keeps people employed and it allows for mom and pop, local stores to stay in business. These US FTAs are geared towards the interests of Wall street and are not US labor.

If you can imagine, Japanese rice farmers do not want to compete with US GMO rice, which will not only be priced significantly cheaper, but corporations will also be able to bid for national contracts and establish patent protection rights over seeds and herbicide, which will-- as it has been shown repeatedly-- unintentionally be spread throughout the farmland creating dispute over patent rights that farmers will not be able to pay as legal rights are expensive and drain the resources of working family farms.

Regarding cars, in the 1970s and 80s, US automobiles didn't make any sense to the average Japanese commuter. Don't confuse protectionism for bad business/design sense. If the US created a reasonable car for the Japanese market, it would've sold. US cars were big heavy gas-guzzlers, and it was bad enough that Japan had to deal with unsold overstock, but they did eventually sell as they were bought and sold as junk or as parts to other regional markets in Singapore and Malaysia. While Japanese cars were popular in the US, to create trade balance, Japanese auto makers opened assembly plants in the U.S. to provide for these trade imbalances.

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