U.S. tells Diet members to address concerns before joining TPP talks

Kyodo

The United States has urged Japan to demonstrate willingness to dispel U.S. concerns in three sectors — automobiles, insurance and beef — before its formal entry into trans-Pacific free-trade talks is approved, a group of lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan said Tuesday.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis told the Diet members on Monday in Washington that Japan needs to take a stance that will make the U.S. Congress and industries accept it into the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks.

Although there is no specific guideline for congressional approval of Japan’s entry into the negotiations, Marantis told the DPJ lawmakers that Japan must build trust with Capitol Hill and the relevant industries, the Diet members told reporters.

According to them, the senior U.S. trade official said Washington does not intend at this time to approve the entry of Canada and Mexico in the TPP discussions before doing so for Japan.

All three countries expressed their interest in joining the talks in November.

On the timing of congressional approval, Marantis indicated that Tokyo should act proactively to get the nod, saying it is up to Japan’s actions, the lawmakers said.

In a related move, Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk met Tuesday and agreed to continue talks on key sectors such as automobiles and insurance.

During the meeting, Kirk briefed Genba about interest and concern raised by Congress and stakeholders in the automobile and insurance sectors.

With regard to insurance, Genba explained to Kirk that a bill to amend the privatization of Japan Post is fully in line with World Trade Organization rules.

The trade representative told Genba that any new participant in the TPP talks must show commitment to attaining the high market-opening standards that the current nine countries involved in the talks have pledged.

The two sides also affirmed that treatment of goods will be determined in the formal TPP negotiations, Genba told reporters.

A Japanese official said this means that how to reduce tariffs on goods, including politically sensitive products, will be discussed and determined in the formal TPP talks.

Genba met with Kirk after his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The bilateral talks were held prior to a two-day gathering of the Group of Eight foreign ministers in Washington from Wednesday.