Japan's farmers are among the most protected and subsidized in the world. But even they are feeling immense pressure from global efforts to broaden trade.
One of its members, Takatoshi Ito, of Tokyo University, says the ideas spilling out of the council point to a new stage of change for Japan. The aim is to tie the country more deeply into the global economy by seeking more free-trade agreements (including even with China and America) and boosting pitifully low levels of foreign investment in Japan. A priority is to address Japan's so-called “dual” economy. The competitive exporting industries are not matched in agriculture and services, which are shielded from competition, lack economies of scale and are backward in their use of information technology. To boost investment, the government is mulling a cut in corporate income tax and other tax changes. Deep reforms to pensions and health care are also expected. [More]While this may all seem of quaint interest for American farmers, we have always been able to point across the Pacific and argue, "They're worse than we are!" when threatened with freer trade.
If Japan's farmers have a losing showdown with their vastly more important exporting industries, it will be strong indicator the atmosphere for global trade is capable of forcing US ag policy changes, regardless of the farm lobby.