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Abe’s Support Rises as Japan Voters Back Decision on Trade Pact

Almost two-thirds of Japanese voters support Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to join U.S.-led regional trade negotiations, according to two polls that show rising support for his administration.

About 63 percent of the public supports last week’s announcement that Japan will join the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, the Mainichi newspaper said. Abe’s approval rating rose seven percentage points to 70 percent, the newspaper said. A separate poll by the Yomiuri newspaper put his popularity at 72 percent, with 60 percent supporting the TPP talks.

Abe made the decision to enter the negotiation in defiance of opposition from farmers, who have traditionally backed his Liberal Democratic Party, four months before parliamentary elections. His popularity has risen every month since the LDP regained power in December with vows to revive the economy through monetary easing, fiscal stimulus and deregulation.

The prime minister today reiterated his determination to protect an agriculture industry that is shielded by a 778 percent tariff on rice.

“I will firmly protect our agriculture and our food,” Abe told a parliamentary committee. “I want to make that pledge clear.”

About 41 percent of respondents to the Mainichi poll said they would vote for the LDP in the proportional representation section of the election for the upper house were it to be held now, up eight percentage points on the previous poll a month earlier. That compares with 7 percent for the Democratic Party, currently the largest party in the chamber, and 13 percent for the Japan Restoration Party.

Both surveys found opposition to Abe’s policy on nuclear power following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Asked whether they agreed with his plan to restart reactors declared safe under new rules to be announced in July, 53 percent of respondents to the Yomiuri poll and 52 percent of respondents to the Mainichi poll said they did not.

The Mainichi polled 954 people by phone on March 16 and 17, while the Yomiuri surveyed 1,053 people between March 15 and 17. Neither poll gave a margin of error.

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