Japan will seek to retain its tariffs on five key farm products after joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, government sources said.
Under pressure to protect the domestic agriculture industry, the government plans to prioritize the exemption of rice, wheat, beef, sugar and dairy products from the TPP principle of total tariff elimination.
Japan will join the 18th round of TPP talks to be held in Malaysia from July 15 to 25. But Tokyo’s negotiators will only participate in the discussions from July 23, to allow the United States to first complete domestic procedures for admitting Japan.
As the last day of the 18th round is expected to be devoted to Japan, that is when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s team plans to clarify its stance on the five farm products, sources said.
“We will make assertions based on the information we have obtained so far. We have no intention to just be briefed” at the July negotiations, a government official said.
While Malaysia has said discussions on 14 of 29 chapters have “substantially closed,” TPP minister Akira Amari said Friday there is still room for negotiation, countering that talks on “topics of interest for Japan have not been closed.”
The government estimates joining the TPP could slash farm output by ¥3 trillion a year, while raising gross domestic product by ¥3.2 trillion, or 0.66 percent.
Given the feared impact on farmers, Diet panels on agriculture as well as Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party have adopted resolutions demanding that key farm products be protected.
The 11 countries currently involved in the talks are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Import limits targeted
The government has asked China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to remove restrictions on imports of Japanese farm products at a committee meeting of the World Trade Organization.
Tokyo previously avoided naming specific trade partners but changed course and voiced strong concerns at the gathering of the WTO panel on sanitary and phytosanitary standards, as the restrictions, imposed following the March 2011 nuclear disaster, have remained in place for an extended period. The meeting was held through Friday.
In addition to international sanitary and phytosanitary standards, countries are allowed to take individual measures to ensure food safety on condition that potential health risks are assessed on scientific grounds.
Shortly after the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a number of countries began to restrict imports of Japanese food produce amid concerns over possible radioactive contamination.
Some countries have eased these steps, but China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are still blocking farm products from certain areas of Japan two years after the Fukushima crisis. The government intends to promote talks to ask for the bans to be lifted, but no dialogue has been held so far with China, informed sources said