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Japan proposes boosting imports of U.S. rice

  • 2015-01-26 15:00:00
  • , Nikkei
  • Translation

(Nikkei: January 25, 2015 – p. 1)

 

 Japan has proposed a plan to add U.S. rice imports to the Japan-U.S. trade negotiations. This is a key to making progress on the overall Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade talks, government sources said.

 

 The Japanese government will likely increase the tariff-free quota for imported rice and import more than 10 thousand tons of additional rice from the U.S., according to sources.

 

 The U.S. has also ceased its request that Japan ease its strict standards imposed on car imports, according to sources.

 

 These moves will likely help the two countries to reach an agreement in spring, adding momentum to the conclusion of all TPP negotiations among the 12 member countries.

 

 Japanese delegates, including the Ambassador in charge of Economic Diplomacy Takeo Mori, will meet with the U.S. Trade Representative’s acting deputy Wendy Cutler and others in Washington to work out details, starting Wednesday.

 

 Of the minimum access quota of 770,000 tons of tax-free rice imports, Japan currently imports a fraction of this amount at a little over 10 thousand tons of U.S. rice. While Washington has so far urged Tokyo to increase this amount to about 200,000 tons, the Japanese government has argued that additional imports of just over 10 thousand tons of rice are as far as they will go. Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman sometime between February and March to iron out differences. Tokyo is widely expected to boost U.S. rice imports within the minimum access quota. It intends to keep its rice import tariff in place.

 

 Japan produces more than 7.5 million tons of rice at home. Though the impact on rice prices is limited, Australia and other countries may demand Japan open its market for their rice.

 

 Meanwhile, the U.S. government has withdrawn its demand for easing Japan’s safety and environmental standards for automobile imports. Until recently, the U.S. had called on Japan to ease standards for auto safety, engine displacement category, and eco-friendly features, demanding that Tokyo should allow imports of American automobiles that meet U.S. standards. The retraction of the demand that Japan was not about to accept is giving rise to the view in Tokyo that Washington is beginning to take steps toward concluding an agreement.

 

 Now, the focus of the bilateral negotiations will be on when to scrap U.S. tariffs on imported auto parts as well as requirements for safeguard measures, aimed at raising tariffs when Japanese car imports increase quickly in the U.S. and when U.S. beef and pork imports rise sharply in Japan.

 

 The TPP negotiations are joined by 12 Pacific countries, including Australia and Canada. With Japan and the U.S. generating about 80% of gross domestic product of the 12 countries combined, advances in their talks will likely boost momentum in the overall negotiations. [Translated by Nikkei and MATT/ edited by MATT]

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