A Tokyo supermarket sells beef imported from the United States in February 2013. Japan's trade partners are eager to crack open the country's famously protectionist agricultural sector.
As an island nation with limited arable land, Japan has long feared food shortages. For this reason, the country has had little choice but to defend its agricultural sector rigorously by attempting to insulate its farmers from economic headwinds and striving for self-sufficiency in food wherever possible. This focus on shoring up agriculture, however, has generated a farming population that has enjoyed outsized political clout in successive administrations. In fact, Japan's agricultural lobby, JA-Zenchu, has served as a reliable vote bank for decades for the Liberal Democratic Party, which, in turn, sheltered farmers and guaranteed itself continued support. But moderating Japan's agricultural protectionism and accelerating reforms has gained urgency since the United States threatened massive tariffs on Japan's critical automotive sector if Tokyo does not open up on agriculture. As bilateral trade talks begin in 2019, the Japanese government will need to balance the United States' strong-arm tactics against the...
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