(Mainichi: September 29, 2015 – p. 7)
By Mikako Yokoyama, Yusuke Matsukura
Negotiations continue on the formidable sticking points in pharmaceuticals, dairy products, and other sectors at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) chief negotiators’ talks in Atlanta. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated at a news conference on Sept. 28 that Japan intends to “conclude the negotiations with indomitable resolve,” but prospects for arriving at a political settlement at the ministerial meeting starting on Sept. 30 remain uncertain.
The toughest issue for the 12 TPP participants is the protection period for pharmaceutical data. Practically no progress has been made since the ministerial meeting in Hawaii in late July. However, a Japanese government source claimed that “the negotiators in charge had arrived in Atlanta before the chief negotiators’ meeting for talks, so progress has actually been made.” It appears that working-level talks with regard to the data protection period are taking place, and the chief negotiators are expected to discuss a policy direction at their plenary session on Sept. 28 based on progress made at the working level.
Meanwhile, New Zealand is demanding drastic market liberalization from Japan, the U.S., and Canada in the dairy products sector, resulting in an impasse in the negotiations. Deputy Chief Negotiator Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s representative in the agricultural products sector, has been talking with New Zealand on Sept. 26 and 27 on the sidelines of the chief negotiators’ meeting. These were the first bilateral talks since the ministerial meeting in July. Japan has proposed the creation of a new import quota of 30,000 tons. The above government source revealed that “both sides are looking at the possibility of finding a meeting point. Talks will continue on Sept. 28.” It appears that tough negotiations are taking place.
New Zealand is also engaged in intense talks with the U.S. and Canada, but has not been able to reach a compromise.
In the auto sector, the issue of “country of origin” remains unresolved.
Discussion on the final details continues among the TPP nations in Atlanta following two rounds of working-level talks held before the chief negotiators’ meeting. (Slightly abridged)