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Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008
Canada to Japan: Drop farm guard, join FTA
By KAHO SHIMIZU
Free-trade agreements are actively being sought as countries worldwide try to boost trade and stimulate their economies, but Japan balks when it comes to liberalizing its agricultural market.
But Canada's ambassador in Tokyo, Joseph Caron, argues that Japan will benefit from inking an FTA with resource-rich Canada and is urging negotiations.
Speaking at a lecture Thursday at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, Joseph said achieving an FTA with Canada means Japan will secure stable energy supplies.
"Canada ranks fifth in the world in terms of energy resource gross output and is indeed one of the global energy superpowers," Caron, who has lived on and off in Japan during his career as a diplomat, said in fluent Japanese. Canada is known as the world's largest producer of uranium and boasts the second-largest oil reserve, he added.
"Supply of natural resources can often be cut due to political events, but as far as Canada is concerned, it is a politically stable country," he said.
Japan is well aware of the appeal of Canada's energy resources. But given the concerns over food security because of the nation's declining food self-sufficiency rate, and because of the political influence of farmers, the government opposes opening the agricultural market.
Caron said the farm sector must be included in bilateral FTA talks because both countries are trying to adapt their agricultural sectors to the globalizing economy.
"Liberalizing the agricultural market gradually will be beneficial to both countries and their people," he said.
Touching on global issues, Caron said the two countries share the same view in many areas, including efforts to curb global warming.
"We both believe that there should soon be a globally accepted framework on measures to combat climate change after 2012. . . . and we must persuade larger emitters (of greenhouse gases) like China, India and the United States to join the global efforts," he said.
Caron also praised the Diet's recent enactment of a special antiterrorism law to allow the Maritime Self-Defense Force to resume its refueling mission in the Indian Ocean, saying Canada wants to see Japan play a greater role in security and peacekeeping.
Because Japan is hosting the Group of Eight summit in July, China is hosting the Summer Olympics this year, and Canada will host the 2010 Winter Games, the timing couldn't be better for Canada and Japan to promote bilateral exchanges, he said.