Okada: Food Sufficiency, Free Trade Not Incompatible

Tokyo/Reuters

Katsuya Okada, the No. 2 executive in Japan’s main opposition Democratic Party, said on Monday that boosting Japan’s food self-sufficiency and pursuing free trade are not incompatible.

“It is not a choice of one or the other,” Okada, the Democrats’ secretary-general, said in an interview with Reuters.

“Other developed countries such as the EU (European Union) have achieved a self-sufficiency rate of 60 to 70 per cent, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have free trade.”

Surveys show the Democrats have their best-ever chance of ousting the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in an Aug. 30 election, ending more than half a century of almost unbroken rule by the business-friendly party.

The Democratic Party has said in its campaign platform it aims for Japan to achieve complete self-sufficiency in major grains. In a preliminary policy outline, the party said it would seek to raise Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate to 50 per cent in 10 years and 60 per cent in 20 years from 40 per cent currently.

Okada said the party was not necessarily aiming for 100 per cent food self-sufficiency but was aiming for 50-60 per cent.

“That is necessary from the viewpoint of national security,” he said.

Japan is the world’s biggest net importer of food.

The Democrats appear to be caught between a desire to boost food self-sufficiency and help farmers and a desire to pursue free trade.

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