Japan plans to oppose fishing subsidy ban in TPP trade talks

Japan plans to oppose a U.S.-proposed ban on fishing subsidies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations that Japan will join from July, due to concern the ban would have numerous adverse effects on Japan's fishing industry, government sources said Saturday.

If the subsidy ban is introduced by other TPP countries, the Japanese government will call to limit its scope to subsidies that would obviously lead to overfishing, as the Japanese fishing industry heavily depends on subsidies, according to the sources.

Japan's position also reflects concern the ban may cover subsidies for building seaports and other infrastructure developments, hindering recovery efforts in coastal regions of northeastern Japan where the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the fishing industry.

The issue of banning fishing subsidies is far from a done deal, as a gap lies between countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand that are hoping to protect the environment and fishing resources through the ban, and other countries that are opposed to the ban.

Japan is set to become the 12th member of the TPP negotiations during the next round of talks from July 15-25 in Malaysia, but has yet to obtain official documents detailing the negotiations so far. The member countries aim to reach an agreement on the TPP framework by the end of the year.

The information on the subsidy ban that Japan has gathered from participating countries so far points to the possibility of the ban being comprehensive, with only a limited number of exceptions such as subsidies for introducing equipment for making distress signals, the sources said.

A number of Japanese officials fear that introduction of a subsidy ban just among the TPP members could put non-member countries like China and South Korea in an advantageous position in the fishing industry.

Japan is involved in a similar debate in the World Trade Organization, where the United States, Australia and New Zealand call for banning fisheries subsidies while Japan and Canada oppose the rule.