Australia FTA talks begin in Tokyo

Kyodo

Japan and Australia began Wednesday in Tokyo three-day talks toward sealing a bilateral free-trade agreement, with the focus on what concessions Japan is prepared to make on liberalizing trade in farm products and Australia on investor protection.

It is the 16th round of bilateral FTA negotiations that were launched in April 2007.

Australia, a major agricultural exporter, has been calling on Japan to eliminate tariffs on such farm items as beef, wheat, dairy products and sugar, which Japan is reluctant to do to protect Japanese farmers.

A gap also remains in the investment area. Japan has been calling on Australia to improve its mechanism for resolving disputes between companies and the countries in which they invest, but Australia is cautious out of concern over the risk of being sued by Japanese companies, sources said.

While pursuing an eventual FTA with Australia, Japan has also been in preliminary talks with the country over Tokyo’s aim to participate in the Trans-Pacific Partnership multilateral free-trade talks.

Australia, which is one of the nine economies already involved in the TPP negotiations, wants Japan to first show its readiness to open up its market before Canberra declares support for Tokyo’s participation in the talks on the regional trade framework.