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POLITICS

Japan proposes concession plan to increase rice imports to up to 70,000 tons

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

(Sankei: July 11, 2015 – p. 1)

 

 Japan is considering a concession plan to set a new tariff-free import quota for U.S. rice for general consumption and increase its annual import volume to up to around 70,000 tons, sources said on July 10.

 

 Japan appears to have presented this proposal during its bilateral working-level talks with the U.S., which ended on July 10, as part of negotiations over a Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

 

 The issue concerning rice imports is the biggest point of contention that remains unresolved between Japan and the U.S. The two countries plan to clinch a final deal when their TPP ministers meet on July 28 on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting among the 12 TPP members.

 

 Japan currently imports about 770,000 tons of rice under a minimum access obligation based on the World Trade Organization agreement. Of that amount, about 360,000 tons are imported from the U.S.

 

 Tokyo and Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a new tariff-free import quota for rice for general consumption apart from the minimum access requirement in exchange for Japan maintaining its tariff of 341 yen per kilogram. The concession plan calls for setting a rice import quota at about 50,000 tons a year immediately after the TPP goes into effect and raising it to up to around 70,000 tons over ten years or longer.

 

 The U.S. has been pressing Japan to import 175,000 tons of rice a year, but Japan has insisted on setting the import quota at 50,000 tons. It appears that Japan has made concessions to a certain extent to bridge the gap and bring the bilateral talks to an end.

 

 Japan and the U.S. held two-day working-level talks in Tokyo from July 9 to seek common ground in issues that remain unresolved.

 

 “We will sort out the issues so they can ultimately be dealt with by political decisions,” said Hiroshi Oe, deputy chief negotiator, before reporters on July 10. He indicated that Japan and the U.S. will hold working-level discussions when chief negotiators from the 12 countries meet in Hawaii from July 24.

 

 The 12 countries will hold a ministerial meeting from July 28 to finalize the TPP talks. Japan and the U.S. are working to schedule a meeting between TPP Minister Akira Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Political decisions will be made on a rice import quota and other remaining issues.

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