(Sankei: July 1, 2015 – p. 12)
In light of the enactment of the TPA bill in the U.S., TPP Minister Akira Amari indicated his enthusiasm at a news conference held after the cabinet meeting on June 30. He said: “We would like to resume Japan-U.S. working level talks at the earliest possible opportunity.”
The deadlock in Japan-U.S. negotiations, along with the pending TPA bill, has been regarded as an obstacle to reaching an overall TPP agreement. A source on the TPP talks says that “an agreement is now in sight.”
Japan and the U.S. have more or less agreed to reduce Japan’s tariff on beef from the current 38.5% to 9-11% and to reduce in stages tariff on pork whose import price is below 65 yen per kilogram from the current 482 yen to around 50 yen. Coordination is also underway on itemizing auto parts for abolition of U.S. tariff based on Japan’s demand.
The biggest remaining issue is the tariff-free quota for rice imports from the U.S. for use as staple food. The U.S. is demanding an annual quota of 175,000 tons, which Japan is resisting with a proposal of 50,000 tons. However, the U.S. understands that rice is the most sensitive domestic issue for Japan, so there is a growing sense at present that “reaching a compromise at a tolerable level for Japan is possible,” according to the above source. (Abridged)