30 April 2014
As US President Barack Obama sat down to an exquisite sushi dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the head of his much trumpeted four-nation Asia visit, he might have been wondering, like the much-quoted Wendy’s slogan, “Where’s the beef?”
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the US-led free trade “plus” pact, was touted to be at the top of Obama’s agenda as he embarked on the weeklong tour. And as the second largest economy among TPP negotiating parties, Japan’s concessions on agricultural and automobile protections were much sought after by the US as examples for other parties to follow suit.
But, alas, as Obama leaves Japan, US beef remains nowhere to be found in Tokyo’s teppanyaki. The Japanese domestic farm lobby proved to be too formidable even for the US president, not to mention for Abe whose political career hinges partly and precariously on their mercy.
… The author is senior fellow of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
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