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January 31, 2009
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International Cooperation by the JA Group

At ASEAN Rural Community Plaz.jpg
At ASEAN Rural Community Plaz

Exhibition of regional specialties
Exhibition of regional specialties

The history of international cooperation by the JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) Group spans more than four decades going back to 1963 when it set up IDACA as an institution dedicated to nurturing leaders for agricultural cooperatives and also those involved in the cooperative development. In the 1970s, we began to send our staffers abroad as experts of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The year 1997 is remembered as a milestone in efforts toward the closer cooperation with agricultural cooperatives in Asia. In that year, we initiated an “Asian Symbiosis Movement” and as part of the movement a FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) TeleFood donation campaign was set off. The year also saw farmers' organizations in Japan and nine other Asian nations unite themselves as the Asian Farmers' Group for Cooperation (AFGC).

The Japanese government has stepped up the talks for concluding the “economic partnership agreement (EPA)” with East Asian countries. And in relation to the talks, the government has come out with a concept of “balance between trade liberalization and cooperation” as one of its policies in the areas of agriculture, forestry and fishery. It is our belief that the single-minded pursuit of free trade will do nothing more than bringing destruction to Japanese farms: the root causes of poverty and other problems of Asian rural communities will not go away. A solution may lie in the cooperation between agricultural cooperatives. The JA Group will cooperate with the cooperatives in the rest of Asia, transferring them the knowhow it has built up in the activation of its cooperative movement. Such cooperative projects are coming into full-scale operation in recent years as the Japanese government began throwing support behind them.

Along the line, experts have been sent to Thailand and training courses have been conducted for Thais at IDACA in parallel with the Japan-Thailand EPA talks. Also underway are Japan-ASEAN Partnership Strengthening Projects (For details, access http: //www.asean-japan-farmersinfo.org/). This program, which began in 2006, includes the exhibitions of local products of ASEAN countries, short-term dispatch of experts from Japan and implementation of training courses at IDACA.

(WTO and EPA office, JA Zenchu)