Japan and the United States are seeking a two-way trade deal,
regarded as a key part of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership
(TPP), before U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Japan for an
April 24-25 state visit.
The TPP, a 12-nation grouping that would stretch from Asia to Latin
America, is a centerpiece of Obama's push to expand the U.S.
presence in Asia. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted it
as a main element of his economic growth strategy.
"Our teams arrived expecting that the talks will be tough. And our
expectations have been met," U.S. Trade Representative Michael
Froman told reporters after talks with Japanese Economics Minister
"We made some progress over the last two days, but there are still
considerable differences on our positions in key issues."
Amari said progress had been made in some areas but significant
differences persisted and it was not possible to say whether a basic
deal could be reached by the summit.
"The U.S.-Japan summit is one important juncture, but it's not a
pre-set goal. We will continue the talks. It's the content of
negotiations that's important," he told reporters.
Without substantive progress toward a deal in time for Obama's trip,
the summit with Abe could end up more symbolism than substance,
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy
and sugar sectors — politically powerful sectors that Japan's Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed to defend.
"We understand the challenges. These negotiations relate to
fundamental reforms and the market opening of sectors in Japan that
have traditionally been closed," Froman said. "These (TPP)
opportunities are aligned with Japan's own economic reform agenda."
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A Japanese government official told Reuters this week that lowering
farm tariffs was possible but scrapping them entirely — the goal of
the TPP framework — was not.
Japan also wants a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs of 2.5
percent on imports of passenger cars and 25 percent on light trucks.
The Nikkei business daily reported earlier that Japan was
considering slashing tariffs on U.S. beef imports to less than 10
percent from the current 38.5 percent.
That proposed cut would be much deeper than one negotiated with
Australia, which on Monday agreed to a trade deal with Tokyo
including a halving of the levy on frozen beef to 19.5 percent.
A spokesman for Australia's foreign affairs and trade department
said if Japan gave another country a better deal, a review would
automatically be triggered with the aim of giving Australia equal
As part of its proposal, Japan is also looking to impose
restrictions if U.S. beef imports soar as a result of a lowering of
the levy, the Nikkei said, without citing any sources.
(Writing by Antoni Slodkowski and Linda Sieg; additional reporting
by Colin Packham in Sydney; editing by Richard Pullin and Robert
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