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U.S. meat lobby urges Japan to open markets as TPP negotiators resume talks

JIJI

A United States meat exporters’ alliance is urging Japan to lower protective tariffs on imports of five groups of farm products, as government negotiators headed to Canada for further talks on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

All farm products should be put on the table for discussion simultaneously as negotiations continue toward the mooted free trade bloc, said Philip Seng, the president of the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

“We are not asking Japan to go to full tariff elimination tomorrow or next year,” Seng said in a phone interview.

“The United States has already accepted what you’d call tariff reduction in the fact that there are a number of years that Japan is going to have to reduce their levels of tariffs,” he said.

“The standing understanding has been that it could be 10 years or longer,” he added.

Seng said Japan’s tariff on beef, at 38.5 percent, is the highest in the world. He also criticized the country’s tariff system for pork as “very complex.”

If reduced tariffs result in imported meat becoming cheaper in Japanese stores, consumption will grow, Seng said. Lower tariffs would benefit Japan’s economy, he added.

Chief TPP negotiators from the United States, Japan and 10 other countries were due to meet in Ottawa on Thursday for talks through July 12.

“All countries want to protect their agriculture. All countries want to protect their industries. So there is still a lot of work to do,” Seng said.

“Progress is slow, but there is still progress,” he added.