A senior U.S. trade official told Japanese agriculture officials last week that Washington would allow no exceptions to removing tariffs under the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework, one of the Japanese officials said Tuesday.
Shigeo Fuji, senior executive director of the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, said he and other officials of the national federation of farm cooperatives, including Chairman Akira Banzai, met with Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler during their Jan. 16-18 trip to the U.S. and Canada to discuss the TPP negotiations.
According to Fuji, Cutler said the U.S. realizes Japan has sensitive agricultural items. Cutler also said that for such items as rice, it would be possible to consider removing tariffs in a phased manner over a long period, or to introduce a system allowing restrictions to be imposed if imports soar drastically.
However, since abolishing all tariffs without exception is a fundamental rule of the TPP, Cutler emphasized that the U.S. would not allow any exceptions in the framework, Fuji said.
The union remains greatly concerned that Japan’s participation in the TPP framework would have a detrimental impact on the nation’s agriculture.
“Even if tariffs are eliminated over eight or 10 years, it would be impossible for Japan’s agriculture (sector) to have its cost level match those of the United States, Australia and New Zealand” within that period, Fuji said. “We are strongly against Japan joining the TPP negotiations.”
Cutler is in charge of U.S. trade issues relating to Japan, South Korea and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. She is expected to head Washington’s delegation to preliminary Japan-U.S. TPP consultations that could start soon.
Tokyo declared its intention in November to join negotiations on the tariff-cutting accord. But to participate, Japan must gain the approval of all nine countries already in the talks.