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Farm minister reiterates TPP protection vow

Kyodo

Farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tuesday that protecting the country’s sensitive agricultural products in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations will serve the national interests, indicating their protection is more important than reaching a deal by the target date.

The 11-day-long 18th round of the talks began Monday in Malaysia. Japan is unable to join until July 23, when the United States completes its domestic procedures to include Japan as the 12th member.

“Protecting the five key products, taking into account the spirit of the resolutions, will serve to protect the national interests,” Hayashi said, referring to resolutions adopted by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Diet’s agriculture committees that urged protection of the products.

Japan is aiming to protect five products — beef and pork, defined as one product, rice, wheat, dairy and sugar — by retaining the high tariffs it imposes on their imports.

While market access negotiations for the elimination of tariffs will be held Monday to Friday, before Japan joins, Hayashi said, “It does not mean everything will be decided between the 15th and 19th.”

Hayashi also said at a press conference he will not fixate on the TPP countries’ plan to conclude a deal by the end of the year, indicating his focus is more on the protection of the nation’s interests.

TPP minister Akira Amari said there has been an “information divide” between TPP members and nonmembers and that once Japan joined the negotiations, its negotiators will “take seriously the Diet resolutions” and work to secure national interests as much as possible outside of the talks.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the negotiations would be “clashes between national interests,” adding Japan will do its “utmost” to protect what needs to be protected.

The 11 existing members of the TPP are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.