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Two sides in sync on key issues

Upshot of TPP prep talks with U.S. to be aired

Kyodo

The government is planning to announce Friday the results of its preliminary negotiations with the United States on Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks, sources said Thursday.

With the two sides already in agreement on key issues, including auto tariffs, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to seek congressional approval for Japan’s participation in the Pacific Rim free-trade talks. As Congress needs 90 days to give its approval, the earliest Japan could join the multilateral trade negotiations is expected to be July.

Japan expressed its commitment last month to join the talks and is waiting for approval by the 11 current members, of which Australia, Canada and New Zealand have yet to give the green light, while Peru, which expressed its support last year, is in the final stage of procedures to give its official consent.

During the preparatory talks with Washington, Japanese officials decided to allow the U.S. to retain its tariffs on vehicle imports from Japan. The U.S. at present imposes a 2.5 percent levy on Japanese automobile imports and a 25 percent tariff for trucks.

Opposition to the TPP in Japan, however, remains strong. On Wednesday, a group of university professors urged the government not to take part in the TPP negotiations, arguing it may not be able to protect the national interests.

The group submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi, a petition against Japan’s participation in the talks signed by more than 800 members of the domestic academic community.

Satoshi Daigo, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, and Keio University’s Masaru Kaneko said Japan’s planned participation in the TPP framework may not only harm farming but also alter the medical system and food safety standards.

Canada FTA talks on

Japan and Canada will hold their second bilateral free-trade talks April 22-26 in Ottawa, the government said Thursday in Tokyo.

The government said it will send its top negotiator, Jun Yokota, ambassador in charge of economic diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, to the meeting to be attended by Ian Burney, assistant deputy minister for trade policy and negotiations at Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, among other officials.

The two countries held the first round in Tokyo in November.

According to the Finance Ministry, Japan’s exports to Canada in 2012 came to ¥818.90 billion worth of goods, including automobiles and machinery, while imported Canadian goods stood at ¥1.01 trillion, including coal, rapeseed and nonferrous metals.

Through the envisioned FTA, Japan hopes to increase its export of autos and machinery products through the elimination of tariffs, while securing a stable supply of natural resources from Canada.