And so it begins: Japan, White House can’t agree on what Noda told Obama about the TPP

We picked up on this as soon as Kyodo News put it on the wire.  Now, it’s blown up into a global controversy that is not going to help either Noda or Obama at home.

Japan has denied a White House statement that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told U.S. President Barack Obama he would put all goods and services on the negotiating table for trade liberalization.

The White House stood by its statement, issued on Saturday, despite Japan’s denial.

The discrepancy comes after Noda held talks with Obama at a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Hawaii and notified the president of his decision to seek to join talks on a U.S.-led free trade pact, the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).

It is not true that Prime Minister Noda made such a comment in the summit meeting. We pointed out to the U.S. side that the statement in question is not true and asked for explanation,” a Japanese government statement said.

“It has been confirmed that it is the U.S. side’s interpretation based on the basic policy and explanation that the Japanese side has in the past announced or made, and that no such remark has been made (in the summit meeting).”

Asked about the contradiction, Michael Froman, senior White House adviser on international economics, defended the statement.

“I would stand by the statement that we issued earlier, that they discussed the comprehensiveness of TPP, the various issues that will have to be resolved between the two countries, and the consultation process that is the first step in that direction,” he said.

That article was from Reuters.  Kyodo’s article about the controversy shows the White House has backed down from its original response.

Japan asked the United States to correct its press briefing on a bilateral summit Saturday, saying Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was misquoted in it over his position on the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative, Japanese officials said.

The White House admitted that Noda’s remark in question on its website on the meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Honolulu was incorrect, they said.

The White House statement said, ”The President noted that all TPP countries need to be prepared to meet the agreement’s high standards, and he welcomed Prime Minister Noda’s statement that he would put all goods, as well as services, on the negotiating table for trade liberalization.”

The Japanese government said Noda had just explained the government’s basic policy in general on a comprehensive economic partnership and that the U.S. side misinterpreted it as an explanation of Noda’s stance on the TPP.

Earlier, Kyodo released Noda’s remarks after meeting with Obama in which he was asked directly about this.

Reporter: ”You said you conveyed the policy of entering into consultations with the countries concerned on Japan’s participation in the TPP talks in your meeting with the U.S. leader. What was President Obama’s response to that? Prime Minister Noda, did you show your resolve in tackling this issue and did you indicate what kind of approach you are going to take?

Noda: ”As I told you just now, I said (Japan) will start consultations with relevant counties toward taking part in the TPP negotiations. In November last year, we adopted a policy of seeking high-level and comprehensive economic partnerships, and I said we will promote high-level economic partnerships based on this policy. After hearing that, President Obama said he welcomes my decision and offered to advance cooperation between Japan and the United States through these consultations.

As for future procedures, not only the United States but many other nations are involved in the (TPP) talks. We will find out what other countries want from Japan in upcoming negotiations. We will disclose the information to the Japanese people without fail and hold debates involving them. I’d like to follow such a process.”

Reporter: ”Did you also convey those thoughts?’

Noda: ‘‘No. Our talks (on the TPP) ended when (Obama) said he welcomes (Japan’s position.)

Based on this, it is difficult to determine what was said.  And even harder to judge who is telling the truth about the incident now.

From a political standpoint, Noda will not last long if the Japanese people feel that he is “giving away the farm” (literally) to the US.  His promise to defend Japan’s culture, landscape and health system is merely a minimum position if he expects to keep his job.  And the Japanese people have yet to hear what the US is going to give up and how it will benefit Japan.  The first statement put out by the White House was the last thing the Japanese people wanted to hear (yet, secretly, what they rather expect)

As for Obama, he has a predilection to make himself the center of the universe and to interpret everything in that light.  It benefits his re-election to be seen as masterful on the world stage, to the point of having the Japanese roll over to his magnificence even before the negotiations begin.  He probably felt that his over-optimistic public interpretation could be quietly and privately retracted.

The Japanese people are afloat in dangerous waters.  Noda is not in a position of strength against Obama whom, despite his problems, is still seen as a sort of messiah to many in the global elite community.  And Obama has the backing of the US financial, agricultural, and pharmaceutical industries who are desperate to open Japan.  He is also a media darling and controls the world’s most powerful military.

Noda, on the other hand, is a self-described loach with little standing in the international community.  His industrial community, though in decline, has taken Obama’s side, leaving the defense of Japanese interests in the hands of the fatally flawed agricultural community who’s reticence to change the status quo has left Japan vulnerable to takeover by a global bureaucracy controlled by multinational corporations and central banks.  The Japanese people can expect more controversy of this nature in the coming weeks and months.


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