Japan Wants Free Trade. Its Farmers Don't

A rural minority wields outsize clout
Photograph by Franck Robichon/EPA/Corbis

The U.S. and Japanese governments want it. Mitsubishi backs it. Toyota Motor says it can’t compete without it. Yet whether Japan joins the biggest attempt at a free-trade pact may hinge on farmers like Tadashi Hirose. Hirose loses money on his 14 hectares (35 acres) of paddies in southwest Hokkaido, forcing him to take a second job at a construction company. Still, he says, if Japan joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, or TPP, the resulting competition from abroad would destroy his family’s livelihood and economically devastate Hokkaido, the top rice-producing region.

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