Reforms to Japan's agricultural sector and their impact on trade policy.
The government is about to pass legislation curbing the powers of the JA Group, the sprawling conglomerate that dominates the country's farming sector. JA has lobbied successfully for decades for import barriers and subsidies, particularly for rice, and is the most formidable opponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to sign with the United States.
- Economic and political forces are inexorably chipping away at the traditional farming sector's political power and regulatory protection.
- As commercial farmers benefit from deregulation, their weight as a constituency will grow, making further liberalisation easier.
- In boldly confronting the feared farmers' lobby and winning, Abe signals his seriousness about structural reform.