Solidarity With People Of Japan Opposing TPP & US Militarism
Above: The World Is Rising protest marches through the streets of downtown Washington, DC en route to Embassy Row where the march ended at the Japanese Embassy. Photo by John Harvey.
Washington, DC – The final stop on the Embassy Row protest in Washington, DC, called “The World is Rising to Stop the TPP,” was the Japanese Embassy. Japan is the largest economy in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) after the United States. It is the third largest economy in the world, but the Japanese economy has been stagnating for all of this century and is desperate to find a way out of its economic problems.
In 2012 Abe ran for office as an opponent of the TPP, as the National Bureau of Asian Research reports:
“In less than three months after taking office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Japan would join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. Compared with the delay and indecision of the previous administrations under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), this was lighting speed. What made it all the more surprising was the negative stance of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) on the TPP in its election manifesto, which stated that it would ‘oppose participating in the TPP negotiations as long as they were premised on tariff abolition without exceptions.’ This was a revised version of an initially more positive statement that ‘We will support participating in the TPP negotiations as long as they are not premised on tariff abolition without exceptions.’ The switch was made in order to win over farmers and agricultural organizations in the election, and the strong stand against the TPP and its principle of eliminating all tariffs contributed to the restoration of the party’s electoral support base in rural areas. Not surprisingly, many farmers and agricultural cooperative leaders felt betrayed by the later turnaround in government policy.”
In March of 2013, even before Abe announced entry into the TPP, the nation’s largest farm and consumer groups held a mass protest of thousands of people opposing entry into the talks. In December 2013, Vice President Joe Biden was protested by thousands against the TPP when he visited Japan. They demonstrated outside of where Biden was meeting with Abe wearing headbands that said “Take a firm stand on the TPP” and holding signs that said “TPP will make Japan a colony of the USA.”
Protests have continued to grow since Japan entered the TPP. The major concern is with rice farmers who expect to be devastated by the reduction on rice tariffs and see TPP as a death sentence. The tradition of Japanese rice farming organized by co-operatives on small plots is going to be destroyed not only by US rice imports but also by foreign investment and corporate land ownership which will mean larger plots of land and mechanization. Small farms will not be able to compete with agribusiness.
The other major impact will be on Japan’s excellent healthcare system which will be destroyed by the TPP. The cost of drugs and private insurance coming into the Japanese healthcare market are two primary concerns. As Nobuhiko Suto, former representative from the Democratic Party of Japan told The Real News:
“When the U.S. insurance companies enter our market, they will focus on profitable sectors. But Japanese health insurance depends on pooling together profitable and other sectors. The U.S. companies would go after cancer and other specialized medicine to make their profits, and this would leave out poor people who can’t pay and would destroy our insurance system.”
They see the TPP as the Americanization of Japan and describe US healthcare as “money crazed.” Japanese say “The U.S. system isn’t fair and favors the rich. We don’t need it here in Japan!”
The Japanese have it right. The TPP puts the interests of transnational corporate profits ahead of the necessities of the people. By putting profits ahead of people the agricultural economy of Japan and its prized healthcare system are being put at risk.
Prime Minister Shinzō Abe has become a puppet of the United States not only on the TPP but also on the military pivot to Asia. His conservative Liberal Party has enough seats in the Diet, the Japanese legislature, to force through Abe’s agenda despite widespread opposition and protest by the public. He tries to hide is position as a US puppet in nationalist rhetoric of a strong Japan, but more people are seeing through it and his popularity is plummeting.
Along with undermining key parts of the Japanese economy, Abe has undermined the post-World War II Japanese constitution which forever renounces war. The US has been urging this change for more than a decade. Abe promised the change to the US when he spoke to a joint session of Congress on April 27, 2015.
As Abe pushed toward passing a series of “security laws” that would re-interpret the constitution to allow Japan to go to war so long as it was as an ally with another country, e.g. the United States, protests grew. In June a man set himself on fire in the center of Tokyo.
At the end of June, 1.65 million people submitted petitions to the Diet opposing the laws. The legislature was surrounded by thousands of people opposing the laws. Protests occurred night after night with signs saying “No to Abe,” “No to War,” and “Protect the Constitution.” More than 100,000 protested outside the Diet in August.
Just as Abe shrouded himself in false nationalism while serving as a US puppet, he used false rhetoric around the constitutional change, e.g. calling it “proactive passivism” and laws allowing war to “prevent wars.” Only 18% of the Japanese population supported the laws.
Abe reamed them through the Diet in a vote which featured a fist fight by Abe party members who wanted an unrecorded, voice vote. He passed the laws by reinterpreting provisions that required a two-thirds majority of both parliamentary houses, followed by a national referendum – hurdles that have defeated every previous administration.
Constitutional lawyers in Japan have agreed that the process used was unconstitutional and describe it as a “constitutional coup d’etat.” Five former prime ministers spoke out against the Abe laws. But the puppet did what he promised his US puppet master.
The US escalation of militarization with Japan is also seen in the building of a new, expanded military base in Okinawa in an environmentally sensitive, pristine section of Ooura Bay. The people of Okinawa have been protesting to stop this base for years, some for more than 4,000 consecutive days with protests of tens of thousands at times. They have protested on the water and on land, with sit-ins, blockades and marches. Polls show 76% of Okinawans oppose the base and they have shown their disapproval in elections. The governor recently revoked the permit for building the base. The national government overruled local Governor Takeshi Onaga’s decision to rescind permission to build on the new site that had been approved by his predecessor, and construction continues.
The only arrest during the ‘World Is Rising’ protest, occurred on our final stop at the Japanese Embassy. We protested in solidarity with the people of Japan who are being ignored by their government. Those who risked arrest included Jim Goodman of Family Farm Defenders saying we were acting in solidarity with rice farmers; Dr. Margaret Flowers, a leading advocate for single payer healthcare, risked arrest to stand with the Japanese whose health system is threatened by the TPP; and, former Baltimore steel worker, Richard Ochs, in the end the only one arrested, chained himself to the Japanese Embassy by attaching a bicycle lock to his neck, and did so because he knows that corporate trade agreements undermine the economy at home and abroad.
The only way to defeat the TPP and other corporate trade agreements is by building unity across geographic boundaries and uniting all of the issues that will be adversely impacted by the TPP. We must create an international movement of movements. Together we can defeat the TPP.