Bilateral TPP talks eyed with 10 members in late August

Kyodo

Japan is arranging one-on-one meetings with the 10 other countries, apart from the United States, involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks on the sidelines of the next negotiations session later this month, a government source said.

The government is prepared to present lists of items for which it could eliminate tariffs, and they will not include five sensitive farm products that Japan intends to keep protecting, the source said Tuesday.

Those products are beef and pork, rice, wheat, dairy and sugar. Cabinet ministers involved in the TPP talks are set to endorse the strategy for tariff negotiations Thursday.

Japan became the 12th member of the TPP negotiations in late July and held bilateral talks with the United States covering autos and nontariff barriers in nine areas, including insurance, earlier this month.

The 10 other TPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan is eager to catch up with the other countries by holding bilateral tariff talks during the Brunei meeting from Aug. 22 to 30, according to the source.

The United States will probably not accept Japan’s offer to hold bilateral sessions on tariff elimination in parallel with the Brunei round, apparently due to its strategy of advancing tariff negotiations with other members first and later jointly pressuring Japan to achieve high-level trade liberalization, the source said.

Tokyo is planning to exchange lists of items subject to tariff elimination prior to the individual sessions with the 10 members.

The products on the lists will be categorized into three groups — those for which tariffs will be scrapped when the TPP takes effect, those for which tariffs will be eliminated after a certain period of time, and those for which tariff removal will be decided later.

Tokyo is expected to request during the bilateral sessions that the time frame for tariff removal related to fishery products be determined in the future. Japan did not abolish tariffs on those items under its existing bilateral free-trade agreements.

Under the existing FTAs concluded by Japan, the percentage of items for which Tokyo agreed to eliminate tariffs within 10 years accounts for 84.4 percent to 88.4 percent of total tariff lines.

Tokyo will first show its readiness to bring the percentage of tariff-free items to around 70 to 80 percent of the total during the individual TPP sessions with the 10 members and raise the ratio later, depending on their responses, the source said.

If Japan agrees to abolish all tariffs other than those on the five items, they would account for 93.5 percent of its total tariff lines.

New TPP study camp

IRUMA, Saitama Pref.
JIJI

Japanese negotiators got together Tuesday for a two-day study camp to prepare for Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade talks later this month.

The second camp in Iruma, Saitama Prefecture, brought together more than 100 negotiators to devise a strategy for Japan to maintain tariffs on five important farm products, including rice, under the TPP talks.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister for economic and fiscal policy at the Cabinet Office, encouraged the negotiating team to work hard to conclude the TPP talks by year’s end.

Nishimura said he wants the negotiators to safeguard the nation’s interests.

The next round of TPP talks in Brunei will start with a ministerial meeting on Aug. 22-23 and continue until the end of the month.

Akira Amari, Japan’s minister in charge of the TPP negotiations, will take part in the ministerial session.

Japan made its debut in the U.S.-led multilateral trade talks in the previous round in Malaysia last month, but could not participate in discussions on market access. Japan can attend all discussions starting with the Brunei round.