The Abe administration has proposed sharply cutting Japan’s tariff on a certain amount of U.S. pork over a 10-year period in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, according to sources.
The sources also said that Tokyo proposed safeguards during ministerial-level negotiations with Washington in September that would be triggered if pork imports from the United States exceed a quota to be set.
The bilateral-level proposal was made ahead of the latest round of broader talks by TPP chief negotiators that wrapped up Sunday in New York.
In the broader talks, gaps remain over issues such as intellectual property and the reform of state-owned enterprises. Details of the latest round of negotiations are not yet known, but the countries will continue consultations, officials said.
The 12 TPP countries plan to convene a ministerial meeting in mid-March, with Singapore emerging as a candidate host country, sources close to the negotiations said Sunday.
Japan’s proposal to lower tariffs on U.S. pork would be applied as a quota based on current import levels, the sources said.
While the proposal is a sign of compromise by Tokyo in an area it has been defending, sources say Washington may press Tokyo to apply reduced tariffs to a larger quota than it plans.
Japan’s offer pertains to lower-priced pork, the sources said. The Abe team has proposed to incrementally cut the current tariff of ¥482 per kilogram of U.S. pork to ¥50 over 10 years.
As a measure to guard against a surge in imports, the tariff would be raised to ¥100 per kilogram for imports exceeding the quota, the sources said. But pork that exceeds the quota during the initial 10-year period, when the tariff is still above ¥100, would be subject to the ¥482 tariff again.
The two countries were expected to discuss the matter at working-level talks starting Monday in Washington.
Japanese trade officials met their U.S. counterparts from Wednesday last week to narrow some of the gaps over TPP-related matters. The talks were separate from the TPP negotiations in New York.
Takeo Mori, ambassador for economic diplomacy, and Wendy Cutler, acting deputy U.S. trade representative, discussed remaining differences over automotive trade and planned to continue the talks Monday, the Japanese and U.S. governments said.
Tokyo and Washington also plan to begin another channel of bilateral talks Monday with Hiroshi Oe, Japan’s deputy chief TPP negotiator, and Cutler discussing Japan’s exceptional tariffs on some agricultural produce under the trade pact, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.
Japan and the United States account for some 80 percent of the 12 TPP nations’ combined economy and their lingering differences are regarded as a drag on the overall effort to forge the free trade initiative.
The bilateral talks have been deadlocked due to differences over issues related to market access for agricultural products and autos.
Howard Hill, head of the National Pork Producers Council in the United States, has recently reported “significant progress” in the talks on pork market access.
Japan has sought to retain tariffs on rice, wheat, beef and pork, dairy products and sugar, though the U.S.-led TPP aims for abolition of all tariffs in principle.
The other 10 TPP negotiating members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru and Vietnam.
Meanwhile during the two-day meeting in New York, the chief TPP negotiators made progress on rules to determine the country of origin for products to be traded under the TPP, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
But the issue of how long to protect data on the development of new drugs may be carried over to the ministerial talks, the source said.
Officials see this spring as the effective deadline for ending the 5-year-old talks given that the United States will enter campaign mode later this year for the 2016 presidential election.