WASHINGTON – A public hearing began Tuesday on Japan’s proposed participation in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact, with representatives of various U.S. industries pressing their points over the matter.
Business lobbies such as the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan backed a TPP including Japan, while automobile-related organizations expressed opposition for fear of increases in imported vehicles from Japan.
The event was a step before President Barack Obama’s administration gives the final green light, possibly on July 23, to Japan joining the United States and 10 other countries in the ongoing talks on the trade pact, through policy coordination with Congress.
Wendy Cutler, assistant U.S. trade representative in charge of Japanese affairs, said at the hearing, “Japan is an important market for the United States,” although there are long-standing issues such as nontariff barriers, while the participation of Japan, which is the fourth-largest U.S. trader partner, increases the economic value of the TPP agreement.
Officials from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Treasury, Commerce, Labor and State departments attended the event that was aimed at sharing opinions with business organizations, including those in the auto, agriculture and insurance industries.
ACCJ President Laurence Bates said, “Japan has made significant economic reform in the past years, benefiting the United States. Japan’s markets are more open than ever.”
The ACCJ said in its comment, “Japan’s participation is a game-changer that will not only create the world’s largest free-trade zone, but will also help strengthen the U.S.-Japan bilateral relationship both economically and strategically.”
The U.S.-Japan Business Council, promoting U.S. business interests in Japan, also welcomed Tokyo in the TPP talks, saying Japan’s entry into TPP presents “a historic opportunity” to negotiate new access opportunities, address some long-standing nontariff trade barriers and further expand food and agriculture trade with one of the world’s largest economies.
The United Auto Workers said the labor union continues to be “deeply concerned about the potential negative consequences that the inclusion of Japan into the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement could have on U.S. automotive production and employment.”
A TPP accord that includes Japan “will lead to significant worsening of our automotive trade deficit, and result in the loss of thousands of additional auto jobs in the United States,” the group said.
Matthew Blunt, president of the American Automotive Policy Council, which consists of Chrysler Group LCC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., called for provisions aimed at preventing “currency manipulation” by Japan and maintaining U.S. tariffs on imported Japanese cars “no less than 25-30 years.”
Although Japan imposes no tariffs on imports of automobiles, the United States has demanded Japan address nontariff barriers associated with transparency and regulations in order to help increase U.S. auto exports to Japan.
The Association of Global Automakers Inc., which comprises non-American auto manufacturers, questioned the position by the council, saying if a TPP pact includes such provisions against currency manipulation, it could affect U.S. monetary policies.