U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and Japanese Economics
Minister Akira Amari wrapped up two days of intense talks on
Thursday on the bilateral deal, a cornerstone of the U.S.-led
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with both saying progress had been
made but that big gaps remained.
"There was a bit of progress but big differences remain,"
Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi reiterated at a news
conference on Friday.
Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters that an April 24
summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe would be an important juncture for the trade
talks, but repeated Japan's stance that the meeting was not a
deadline for a deal, Kyodo news agency reported.
The United States wants Japan to open its rice, beef and pork, dairy
and sugar sectors — politically powerful sectors that Abe has vowed
to defend. Japan wants a timetable on U.S. promises to drop tariffs
of 2.5 percent on imports of passenger cars and 25 percent on light
The TPP, a 12-nation grouping that would stretch from Asia to Latin
America, is central to Obama's policy of expanding U.S. presence in
Asia and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has touted it as a main
element of his economic growth strategy.
Arrangements are being made for Amari to visit the United States for
further talks next week, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide
Suga told a news conference. Japanese media reported Amari was
eyeing a meeting with Froman on April 17.
"We are negotiating to the greatest extent possible taking our
national interests into account," Suga said. "We have not yet
reached a landing point."
The Nikkei said Froman appeared to have abandoned the United States'
insistence that Japan scrap its tariffs on beef, but big gaps
remained over the size of the cuts and the conditions under which
Japan could take counter-steps if imports rose.
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Japan was considering lowering its beef tariff to below 10 percent
but wants to be able to restore its higher levy if beef imports
increase by even a small amount, the newspaper said, without citing
A Japanese government official told Reuters that lowering farm
tariffs was possible but that scrapping them entirely — the ultimate
goal of the TPP — was not on offer.
"The truth is various proposals are on the table and nothing is
agreed until everything is agreed since negotiation is conducted in
package," said the official, who declined to be identified because
of the sensitivity of the discussions.
Japan has been hoping that a basic deal clinched with Australia,
including a halving of Tokyo's tariff on frozen beef to 19.5
percent, would put pressure on Washington to compromise to avoid
U.S. beef exporters losing out to Australian rivals.
Froman said on arrival in Japan this week that Washington was
seeking a "higher level of ambition" in any TPP deal than the
(Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto and Elaine Lies;
by Richard Pullin)
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