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Japan, U.S. make “certain degree of progress” toward bilateral TPP deal

  • 2015-07-13 15:00:00
  • , Yomiuri
  • Translation

(Yomiuri: July 11, 2015 – p. 9)


 Japan and the U.S. wrapped up on July 10 their two-day bilateral working-level talks on a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. The discussions centered on increasing Japan’s imports of U.S. rice for general consumption and eliminating U.S. tariffs on Japan’s auto parts exports to the country. A certain degree of progress was made on both sides, raising the likelihood of finding common ground. Tokyo and Washington will continue to hold talks toward a final agreement until ministers from the 12-nation TPP negotiations meet later this month.


 It has been reported that Japan and the U.S. held in-depth discussions on increasing imports of U.S. rice in their working-level talks resumed for the first time since May.


 “We have made progress with respect to where there might be potential common ground,” Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, told reporters after she finished talks with her Japanese counterpart Hiroshi Oe. “Now discussions must be held between our ministers,” she added.


 Whether Japan will guarantee the import volume set under a special, non-tariff TPP quota will become another item for discussion [during ministerial talks between the two countries]. Tokyo and Washington will schedule a meeting between Japan’s TPP Minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman for a final agreement on the sidelines of a 12-nation ministerial session, which will be held in Hawaii from July 28.


 Japan and the U.S. will discuss their trade deals while keeping an eye on progress on tariff discussions among other TPP members. “Issues that concern Japan and the U.S. are linked to other countries,” said Oe.


 The U.S. also places priority on its tariff deals with Canada and New Zealand. It would probably be difficult for the U.S. to finalize the TPP talks by solely focusing on its talks with Japan.


 Japan, for its part, is also considering heeding Australia’s call for an increase in rice imports. The situation does not warrant working only with the U.S. on the rice issue.


 Dairy products are another point of contention. New Zealand, a major dairy exporter, insists that it will not clinch a deal unless it wins a certain level of market opening from Japan, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The four countries may need to discuss the matter together.


 Another problem is that negotiations with Canada are falling behind. Canada is taking an adamant position of protecting its tariffs on dairy product imports. It appears that little progress has been made in Canada’s talks with the U.S. and New Zealand as well.


 “We believe preparations are well underway for a final agreement [on eliminating tariffs in the automobile field],” said Takeo Mori, an ambassador in charge of handling automobile trade issues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


 Japan has been pressing the U.S. for the immediate removal of tariffs on engines, gearboxes and many other high-priced major auto parts.


 While Japan wants to protect rice farmers, the U.S. hopes to protect its automotive industry. It is unlikely for one of these issues to be settled ahead of the other. Tokyo and Washington will seek to clinch a final deal at their ministerial talks.

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