WASHINGTON – The level of market access proposed by Japan does not meet the standards of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, James Fatheree, president of the U.S.-Japan Business Council, said recently.
“It is clear that Japan has more work to do in order to meet the expectations,” Fatheree said in an interview, suggesting Tokyo needs to make further concessions over the issue.
Japan has so far insisted on maintaining tariffs in five key farm product categories, including rice and beef. It is holding two days of working-level talks with the U.S. in Washington through Wednesday to try and reach a breakthrough.
The two countries can overcome their differences, but it is going to require Tokyo’s acceptance that its market access proposal “is not good enough,” Fatheree said.
He said the TPP is “an opportunity for Japan” to have a trade agreement with major agricultural suppliers like the United States and Australia, which would ensure a stable supply of high-quality farm products in Japan and lead to agricultural reform at home.
The current structure of the Japanese agricultural system “does not work any longer” because of the age of farmers and the size of plots of land, he said.
So much of the TPP is “riding on the ability of Japan and the United States to get this agreement,” Fatheree said, expressing his hope that the two nations make progress going into a summit meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama in late April.
In their February ministerial meeting, the 12 countries participating in the TPP negotiations failed to reach a substantive agreement, partly due to the tug of war between Japan and the United States.
The U.S.-Japan Business Council is a business association made up of major U.S. companies that support U.S. business interests in Japan and promote stronger bilateral economic relations.
Tariffs still a key priority
Japan and the United States began talks Tuesday aimed at narrowing gaps over tariffs on some Japanese farm produce, an obstacle to an early conclusion of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership.
A focus will be on whether trade officials from the two biggest economies in the envisioned TPP can make progress on the tariff issue ahead of Barack Obama’s visit to Japan in April.
Hiroshi Oe, the deputy chief TPP negotiator for Japan, and Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. Trade Representative, attended the meeting, which is expected to wrap up Wednesday.
The United States has urged Japan to lift all tariffs on what Tokyo calls its five sensitive produce categories — rice, wheat, pork and beef, dairy products and sugar.
Cutler suggested last week that the United States could be flexible on Japan’s demand, calling on the country to provide market access that would be “meaningful” for U.S. agricultural exports.
Japan and the United States have also been at odds over automobile trade during the TPP negotiations, although Oe and Cutler are expected to concentrate on market-access issues during the current round of talks.
Japan, the U.S. and 10 other countries have struggled to secure an early signing of the TPP after missing the primary deadline at the end of last year.