New Zealand trade minister Tim Groser said Wednesday all trade products should be subjected to liberalization under the Trans-Pacific Partnership without exception, including farm products Japan is now trying to protect by maintaining tariffs.
“We will not handle these sensitivities in agriculture, autos or whatever, by exclusions from trade liberalization,” Groser told the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo.
His remarks came after Japan won the backing of all 11 participating countries over the weekend to join the TPP negotiating table.
Amid strong domestic calls to protect rice, beef and other farm products, Japan has been seeking to negotiate exceptions to the TPP’s general rule on tariff elimination.
But Groser said making exceptions will lead other countries to call for the same, complicating negotiations and possibly causing the envisioned trade pact to fall apart.
He added, however, that TPP members will deal with sensitive areas in a “sympathetic, responsible and reasonable way.”
Groser also said his country is “delighted” that Japan will be part of the TPP family, adding it makes the TPP “a far more interesting and important initiative.”
With Japan’s expected entry, the TPP countries would account for nearly 40 percent of global economic output and about a third of world trade, even without China.
The 11 countries already involved in the talks are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Agriculture to get boost
The government said it will boost crop exports and promote intensive farming, among other steps, to bolster the nation’s dwindling agriculture industry and prepare for entering negotiations on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The decision came Tuesday amid concern that participation in the tariff-cutting pact could trigger an influx of cheaper farming products from overseas, ravaging Japan’s heavily protected farm sector.
To quell such fears, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, which has promised to craft its economic growth strategies by June, aims to raise agricultural productivity at home and enhance global competitiveness in the field by opening up new markets abroad.
This marks the first time that the government has revealed concrete proposals to beef up the agriculture industry since Abe announced Japan’s plan to join the TPP talks last month.
Ahead of the House of Councilors election this summer, Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party will do all they can to persuade the public they are focused on shoring up the shrinking farm sector.
Farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said in a meeting of the industrial competitiveness council that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is planning to set up new bodies to strengthen local authorities’ ability to intermediate between lenders and renters of farmland.