Japan to propose changes to beef import
safeguards in talks with U.S.: sources
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[October 12, 2017]
By Takashi Umekawa
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan will propose
changes to its safeguard mechanism on frozen U.S. beef imports that will
shorten review periods and allow importers to voluntarily lower import
volumes to prevent tariffs from automatically kicking in, two government
sources said on Thursday.
The proposal will be made at the second round of the U.S.-Japan economic
dialogue in Washington on Oct. 16, but it is uncertain if the U.S. side
will go along, said the two sources, who have direct knowledge of the
If successful, the proposal could help ward off trade friction with the
United States, which is renegotiating free trade agreements with other
countries to protect jobs and lower its trade deficit.
Under current measures, Japan automatically imposes higher tariffs if
quarterly imports of specific beef products from any country rise more
than 17 percent from the previous year.
Japan hiked tariffs from Aug. 1 on imports of frozen beef, popular in
beef bowl dishes, from countries including the United States to 50
percent from 38.5 percent.
The move followed U.S. President Donald Trump's withdraw from the
long-planned Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal earlier this year.
Japan says the tariff hike, set to be in place until next March, is a
"safeguard" mechanism to protect domestic farmers, but it has prompted
some concern in Washington.
Instead of reviewing import data on a quarterly basis, Japan will
propose shortening this period to every 10 days, the sources said. This
will make it easier for companies that import beef to adjust volumes and
avoid triggering tariffs, the sources said.
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A worker adjusts the U.S. flag before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Abe addresses media following a meeting with President-elect Donald
Trump in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 17, 2016.
However, the plan is far from certain to work because frozen U.S.
beef imports could surge next year in April after the current tariff
increase expires, one source said.
"Once the safeguard is triggered, there is a concern that it will
repeatedly be triggered in the future," the source said.
The first round of the U.S.-Japan economic dialogue, which was held
in Tokyo in April, ended largely without incident. However, there is
some concern among Japanese officials that the U.S. side could
strongly push for trade concession during the second dialogue
Japan had a $69-billion trade surplus with the United States last
year, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, which has expressed
concern over what it called the "persistence" of the imbalance.
Japanese officials counter that Tokyo accounts for a much smaller
slice of the U.S. deficit than in the past, while China's imbalance
is much bigger.
(Wrting by Stanley White; Reporting by Takashi Umekawa; Editing by
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