15:00-16:00, Friday, June 7, 2013
President of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives
WITH Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, JA Zenchu – the nation's largest and most powerful agricultural lobby group – has a fight on its hands.
Shinzo Abe's push to join the US-backed free trade pact will involve some tough medicine for Japan's greying army of heavily subsidized farmers to swallow.
High tariffs on beef and dairy products are likely to fall if Japan enters the pact and even the tariff wall protecting rice growers could be lowered, if not totally toppled.
JA Zenchu president Akira Banzai, 66, is the man in charge of taking up the fight against the TPP on behalf of the group's 9 million members and employees.
In days past Banzai could have perhaps relied on the Liberal Democratic Party – which counts on a substantial rural constituency - to avoid any move towards wholesale trade liberalization involving the agricultural sector.
But Abe has heeded the call of Japan's exporters, who are eyeing greater access to TPP member markets, and sought to make his own mark as a reformer by taking the country into the big new Asia Pacific trade bloc.
And as Banzai strives to rally farmers against the TPP, he is likely to find some opposing his organization's control over prices, supply chains and most other aspects of farming life in Japan.
Banzai will come to the FCCJ to set out his stance against the TPP, what he sees as the consequences for Japan and its agricultural industry and what he and his members plan to do to disrupt Japan's proposed entry into the bloc.