Japan, U.S. pursue trade talks in parallel with TPP

JIJI, Kyodo

Trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman agreed Wednesday to promote talks between their countries in parallel with the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade negotiations.

This accord came a day after Japan made its debut as the 12th member in the U.S.-led TPP talks.

Tokyo and Washington plan to hold the first round of bilateral talks in August, sources said. In April, the two countries agreed to hold parallel discussions on pending bilateral trade issues after Japan joins the TPP negotiations.

In Wednesday’s meeting in Washington, Froman said it is necessary to achieve substantial results in the parallel talks, citing automobiles, insurance and nontariff trade barriers as key issues.

Motegi expressed hope to achieve results that would be meaningful to both sides.

Motegi also said Japan is ready to cooperate in achieving a comprehensive, high-level TPP pact as soon as possible.

Froman said the United States will do its best to reach a conclusion by the end of the year.

In Malaysia on Thursday, countries involved in the TPP negotiations briefed Japan on the final day of the round. The next round of talks will be held in Brunei from Aug. 22 to 30, sources said.

At the second and final day of the “Japan session” that began Wednesday afternoon, negotiators from the 11 prior TPP members of the talks provided background and details of the negotiations of some working groups to ensure Japanese negotiators make a smooth entry to the talks, which are already over three years old.

To help Japan catch up, TPP members Wednesday briefed Japan on seven working groups in which it has not been able to take part, including market access covering tariff elimination, an area Tokyo is keen to discuss.

Thursday’s session dealt with the remainder of the working groups that have not been covered among the over 20 fields of the TPP negotiation, with Japan given a chance to ask questions during the session.

In a separate meeting in Washington on Wednesday, Motegi and U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz agreed to reinforce their countries’ cooperation in enhancing safety at nuclear plants.

They also confirmed that Japan and the U.S. will work together in the development of methane hydrate, touted as next-generation fuel, as well as in basic research and commercialization of renewable energies.

Motegi asked Moniz to quickly give approval on U.S. shale gas export plans filed by trading houses Mitsubishi Corp. and Sumitomo Corp. to allow Japan to import the low-cost gas soon. Moniz said his country is conducting screenings according to law.

Motegi said he got the feeling that Moniz fully understood Japan’s expectations about U.S. shale gas.