WASHINGTON – Japan and the United States will hold a fresh round of talks Monday in Tokyo to bridge gaps over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that remain after the latest ministerial talks in Washington, a government official said.
Japanese and U.S. trade officials involved in the Pacific Rim free trade initiative will hold what could be the last round of talks before a summit on Thursday between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama in Tokyo, hoping for a breakthrough in the market access impasse, the government official said Friday.
“We still have big differences,” Akira Amari, minister in charge of the TPP issue, told reporters after wrapping up a three-day ministerial meeting with Michael Froman, U.S. trade representative, through Friday morning.
However, Amari said “the gaps are getting smaller” before his flying home from Washington. Amari said Froman is expected to visit Japan this week together with Obama.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement, “The round we just completed was focused but difficult.” The USTR said it had “worked to be as creative as possible to address Japan’s political sensitivities” while urging Japan to “make similar efforts.”
Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief TPP negotiator, and Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, and other officials will begin talks in Tokyo on outstanding issues, such as Tokyo’s tariffs on farm produce.
Amari said he has no plan at this point to meet with Froman for another round of TPP ministerial talks before Obama’s arrival in Tokyo on Wednesday.
The two countries have been at loggerheads over Japan’s tariffs on five agricultural produce categories — rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar — and U.S. calls for more access to the Japanese auto industry.
In particular, Japan’s intention to keep tariffs on beef and pork has been a sticking point since many American livestock farmers are seeking to boost exports to Japan.