As a trading nation, Japan should use all possible means to utilize high-level trade and investment rules that have been agreed upon through about five years of negotiations.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Komeito leader Natsuo Yamaguchi have held talks in which they agreed to extend the current extraordinary Diet session until Dec. 14. The Diet session was initially scheduled to close on Wednesday.
The move was aimed at securing the approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact and the passage of pension reform legislation for keeping a balance among generations with respect to the burdens of subscribers and the benefits they receive. The extension of the session can be viewed as reasonable as both measures signify important matters that should be dealt with in the Diet.
A proposal for approving the TPP agreement passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 10. The proposal, currently being discussed at the House of Councillors, will automatically receive Diet approval on Dec. 9.
True, it has become extremely difficult for the TPP deal to take effect, as U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has announced he will withdraw the United States from the treaty. However, Japan, the second-largest economy among 12 TPP member nations, has a responsibility to carry on the banner of free trade and lead other countries in this respect.
That endeavor will pave the way for making preparations for various developments that follow, such as a situation in which the TPP pact would come into effect without the United States or efforts to grope for a different multilateral trade agreement.
The pension reform legislation is expected to pass the lower house on Tuesday.
Pillars of the bills include reconsidering the wage-price indexing mechanism, which can increase or decrease the amount of pension benefits according to fluctuations in wages and prices, thereby improving benefit payment levels for future generations.
DP’s criticism unreasonable
The Democratic Party and others have criticized the bills as “pension reduction legislation” as it would curtail benefit payments in accordance with drops in wages. However, their argument is extremely myopic and pointless.
To make the pension system sustainable amid progress in the aging of society resulting from a low birthrate, it is necessary to stabilize the pension financing function and secure sufficient payment levels for future generations. It is also indispensable for the generations still working and elderly people to share the pain of financial burdens and benefit reductions, thereby preserving a sense of fairness among them.
It is unreasonable that the DP is angrily reacting to the passage of the legislation at the lower house Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare, describing the move as the act of “steamrollering.”
In large part, doesn’t the opposition camp’s assertion that the legislation was “steamrollered” seem to be strongly tinged with eagerness to stage a stunt, since they were aware that discussions on the bills were being broadcast live on TV? This may be seen, for example, by the fact that opposition members rushed to the committee chairman’s chair, carrying sheets of paper with such phrases as “No to pension cuts.”
At the same time, there is no denying the government and the ruling parties were noticeably unskilled in managing Diet affairs.
The committee’s deliberations were greatly behind schedule amid a growing showdown between the ruling and opposition parties over agriculture minister Yuji Yamamoto’s “joke” remark made in connection with a vote on the proposal for approving the TPP deal.
The opposition camp has also taken an even tougher line, after Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda made a verbal gaffe when he likened the opposition camp’s Diet managing approach to “professional wrestling,” describing it as a “farce.”
Verbal gaffes committed by government officials and senior members of the ruling and opposition parties cause a stalemate in Diet discussions. The recurrence of such a situation must be viewed as showing that they lack close attention and caution. They should more firmly stay on their guard as they deal with the extended Diet session.