Japan will host an informal World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in Tokyo in mid-February, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday.

Japan hopes to contribute to the whole WTO negotiation process so that resolutions can be reached on “important topics,” Kawaguchi said, referring to the impending deadline for farm trade talks under a new WTO round.

Japan has apparently decided to sponsor the meeting in a bid to break a deadlock in farm trade talks with agriculture-exporting Cairns group countries, including Australia and Canada.

The foreign minister told reporters it is important to move forward with the WTO negotiations by keeping to agreed deadlines.

The WTO must reach a final agreement by the end of March on the outline of new trade liberalization in agriculture under the new trade round it launched in Doha, Qatar, last November. The deadline on nonagricultural products is set for May.

Kawaguchi said Japan plans to invite trade ministers from the 25 economies that attended the latest informal WTO ministerial meeting in Sydney earlier this month.

They included the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Kenya, South Korea and Mexico. Sources close to the upcoming meeting said the ministers from these economies will probably gather in Japan around Feb. 15 and 16.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tadamori Oshima and Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Takeo Hiranuma as well as Kawaguchi are expected to attend the Tokyo meeting.

Kawaguchi suggested Japan will try to win some acceptance of its stance on farm issues from the Cairns group at the meeting.

“We don’t want to settle farm issues by giving in to the Cairns group,” she said. “We will use the meeting to deepen their understanding.”

Agriculture is one of the most contentious issues in the WTO trade talks. The Cairns group has criticized Japan and other farm importers for failing to offer proposals with specific targets for further reducing trade barriers in farm trade. Tokyo is against fast-track measures to liberalize the agriculture market.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.