Farming has always been a tough business, but it may get tougher for the small-time farmers in Japan.  Japan wants to join the new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact (TPP).  The U.S. government backs the TPP, as does Toyota Motor and Mitsubishi.  Free trade, the idea is, translates to ultimately improved economic growth and prosperity for everyone.

Nevertheless, that does not mean there will not be some bumps in the road to free trade.  In this case, those bumps will be felt by the smaller farms in Japan.  Aya Takada and Yuriy Humber, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek (8/6/12–8/12/12, pp. 13–14), explain the consequences:

“Under the TPP agreement as it is envisioned, . . . tariffs would disappear, Japan’s farms, often only an acre or two in size, would then be overwhelmed by the super-efficient, large-scale agribusinesses of the U.S., New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.” (p. 13)

Although tariffs have their genesis in good intentions, the big problem with them is they ultimately stifle economic prosperity.  Furthermore, once nations begin playing the tariff game, it can easily escalate to a series of reactionary tariff increases and now the trade wars have begun.  That harms everyone economically.

I believe tariffs have simply artificially propped up industries that were not functioning from a viable business plan.  To that point, Tetsuhide Mikamo, the director of Japan’s largest agricultural trading house, expresses the inadequacies of the tariff system with respect to Japan’s smaller farmers:

“What Japan’s agricultural policy has done so far is simply protect farmers, and that has weakened their competitiveness.” (p. 14)

If Japan’s farmers are going to find their way through this changing trade climate, they will have to retool how they do farming, or they will have to seek an alternate occupation.  As Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a changin.”  Any nation that wants a seat at the table in the 21st century economy must be willing to change with the times.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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