The United States expressed concern over the progress of Japan’s deregulation of its insurance market, during a high-level bilateral meeting Thursday in Tokyo.

On the third day of talks being held to follow up bilateral agreements, Haruhiko Kuroda, director general of the Finance Ministry’s international finance bureau, said Japan has satisfied all conditions to scrap transitional measures that are intended to protect American insurers in Japan.

The so-called third sector, which includes coverage for cancer and accidents, will be liberalized in 2001 as agreed upon in a 1996 bilateral accord, Kuroda told a news conference. Until then, activity by Japanese insurers in the sector will be limited.

U.S. negotiators, led by Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Richard Fisher, told their Japanese counterparts that they are concerned about progress in parts of the accord, Kuroda said.

Washington officials acknowledged that Tokyo has met three of the five requirements, including introduction of risk-based auto insurance. But they expressed concern over reform of rating organizations for nonlife insurance and the pace of ministry approval for new products, Kuroda said.

The U.S. also reiterated concerns that INA Himawari Life Insurance Co. is illegally engaging in the third-sector business.

Tokyo replied that INA Himawari is owned 90 percent by CIGNA Corp., a U.S. firm, and 10 percent by the Japanese company Yasuda Fire & Marine Insurance Co., according to Kuroda. USTR comments were not immediately available. Kuroda and Fisher are scheduled to meet again this morning.

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