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Japan’s zero-tariff U.S. rice quota seen to be sharply cut

  • September 17, 2019
  • , Jiji Press , 11:19 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Sept. 17 (Jiji Press) — Talks are being held to sharply cut, or even scrap, Japan’s planned zero-tariff import quota for U.S. rice in a proposed bilateral trade agreement, in consideration of Japanese farmers, informed sources have said.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump will draw a conclusion on the matter when they meet and sign the accord in New York next week, the sources said.

The two sides are also expected to release a joint statement after the bilateral summit.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said he wants to “reconfirm” that Japanese automobiles will not be subject to Washington’s additional tariffs planned for national security reasons, indicating Tokyo’s hope that the envisaged joint statement will show Washington’s pledge not to introduce the add-on tax or set a limit on the number of Japanese automobiles imported to the United States.

During the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free trade pact, which took effect late last year, after Washington’s withdrawal from the TPP framework in early 2017, Japan agreed to introduce a zero-tariff import quota for U.S. rice and expand the amount to 70,000 tons in stages over 13 years.

The United States asked for a similar tariff-free rice quota in the bilateral trade negotiations, but Japan demanded a sharp cut.

According to people familiar with the situation, the U.S. side made concessions, noting that rice is a cultural issue for Japan.

Japan has agreed to set the scope of trade liberalization for items important for the United States, such as wheat, beef and pork, at levels it agreed under the TPP. Japan’s tariffs on U.S. beef are expected to be reduced to around 9 pct in stages from the current level of 38.5 pct.

Meanwhile, U.S. tariffs are expected to be scrapped or reduced for a wide range of industrial products, including auto parts.

In light of the Trump administration’s aim of reviving his country’s manufacturing sector, however, the 2.5 pct U.S. tariffs on finished automobiles from Japan will unlikely be scrapped, sources said.

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