Tokyo is discussing sizable cuts in its pork and beef tariffs in bilateral negotiations with Washington on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, according to an informed source.
Japan imposes a tariff of up to ¥482 per kilogram on lower-priced pork imports. But a new proposal calls for lowering the levy to around ¥120 soon after the free trade deal would take effect, and eventually to ¥50 over a period of at least 10 years, the source, who is familiar with bilateral relations, said.
As for beef, the two sides are talking of cutting Japan’s 38.5 percent tariff to 9 percent over 10 years or more, the source said.
At the same time, Tokyo is requesting the introduction of a safeguard mechanism for pork that would allow it to raise the tariff back to the original level if low-priced imports flood the domestic market, the source said.
Tokyo is insisting on the mechanism to lessen the impact on domestic pig farmers of the expected surge in pork imports. However, this may further fuel frustration among pork producing groups in the United States.
The proposals on pork and beef are likely to draw criticism from Japanese farming groups, and the government is struggling hard to persuade them of the merits.
The two countries will resume working-level bilateral TPP talks from the middle of this week. The participants will prepare multiple options on the toughest issues still unresolved so that Tokyo and Washington can settle them at a later ministerial meeting.
Those issues concern U.S. tariffs on imported Japanese automobiles and Japan’s levies on imports of five key agricultural product categories: rice, wheat, pork and beef, sugar, and dairy products.
Informed sources said the U.S. government is accelerating discussions with Congress and American business groups ahead of this week’s bilateral talks, but resistance to the TPP is expected to be stiff on Capitol Hill.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Friday, Kazuhisa Shibuya, a member of the government’s TPP task force, said no firm agreement has been reached with the United States on specific trade items.
He also denied the government is concealing any TPP agreement with the United States. He indicated that multiple compromises, including on tariffs, are currently under discussion.