• Kyodo

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The World Trade Organization opened a special session on farm trade talks Monday during which Japan once again underscored the importance of food security issues in agriculture.

Japan was among a score of governments whose delegates spoke on the opening day of the special session, which is aimed at laying out rules and procedures for WTO-sponsored negotiations to liberalize farm trade.

Japan, apparently concerned that negotiations on farm trade might take precedence over other trade liberalization issues, has used the “multifunctionality” issue in agriculture to buttress its argument that farm trade should be part of an overall trade-liberalization agenda.

Trade sources said Brazil and other agricultural product exporting countries represented in the meeting urged Japan to take a more positive stand on farm trade talks, warning that Japan could not expect progress in other areas of trade liberalization if the WTO fails to make progress on farm trade.

As farm trade liberalization talks have been mandated under the 1994 Uruguay Round trade accord, Japan, as an agricultural importing country, is worried that negotiations to widen market access under the accord will take place ahead of those for capital investment, or for lowering tariffs on mining and manufacturing industries.

Instead, Tokyo is pushing for comprehensive negotiations that would include agriculture, while upholding the position that farm products require special consideration.

Trade sources said the second phase of farm trade talks will begin this week for deliberation on the technical aspects of some 120 proposals made by various countries since last March during the first phase of negotiations.

The WTO has not set a deadline for the second phase of farm talks, but negotiators are expected to review progress by next March.

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