U.S. prods Japan to lift nontariff barriers

Kyodo

The United States on Monday prodded Japan to remove nontariff barriers for U.S. companies in the domestic automobile and insurance markets.

Various nontariff barriers have traditionally impeded access to Japan’s car market, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in its 2013 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers that was sent to Congress.

The report noted one nontariff barriers is “the lack of equivalent opportunities for U.S. models imported under the preferential handling procedure certification program to benefit from temporary fiscal incentive programs.”

Among other nontariff barriers are issues related to standards and certification and obstacles that hinder the development of distribution and service networks, it said.

“Overall sales of U.S.-made vehicles and automotive parts in Japan remain low, which is a serious concern,” the report said, adding that Washington “urges Japan to address the full range of barriers in Japan’s automotive market.”

While the Japanese auto market is one of the key issues on which the United States will base a decision on whether to allow Tokyo to formally join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks, the wording in the auto sector was quite similar to that in the previous year’s report.

With regard to the Japan Post group, the United States reiterated its call on Japan to take all necessary measures “to achieve a level playing field between Japan Post companies and private-sector participants in Japan’s banking, insurance and express delivery markets.”

In the insurance sector, the report asked Tokyo to address U.S. concerns such as ensuring equal supervisory treatment between Japan Post’s affiliates and private-sector companies.

The Japanese private insurance market is the world’s second-largest, with direct net premiums of about $462.5 billion, the report said, adding, “Given the size and importance of Japan’s private insurance market as well as the scope of the obstacles that remain, the U.S. government continues to place a high priority on ensuring that the Japanese government’s regulatory framework fosters an open and competitive insurance market.”