Japan, U.S. resume working-level TPP talks

Kyodo

Japan and the United States resumed bilateral working-level talks on a Pacific free trade deal Monday in Tokyo, aiming to break a deadlock over Japanese tariffs on farm products that is holding the deal up.

The talks between Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and his counterpart Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, come after a previous meeting in Washington in late March, with the two parties attempting to speed up negotiations ahead of a visit to Tokyo by President Barack Obama in two weeks.

A summit between Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on April 24 is widely seen as an opportunity to narrow gaps over contentious TPP issues and advance toward concluding a deal.

Japan-U.S. TPP talks have been stalled over Japanese tariffs on five key farm product categories — rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar — that Tokyo wants to protect. On the principle of abolishing all tariffs, Washington has been calling for more flexibility from Tokyo over the issue.

Tokyo and Washington are also expected to discuss auto trade issues during the working-level talks.