The leader of a farming body urged Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday to resist anticipated calls from other World Trade Organization members for large agricultural tariff cuts during a ministerial WTO meeting next month in Tokyo.

Isami Miyata, who heads the influential Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives, issued the request at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence ahead of the Feb. 14-16 informal WTO meeting.

Miyata told reporters he pressed Koizumi to declare that Japan will vow to protect the domestic farming industry and ensure that the nation’s agricultural self-sufficiency does not recede any further.

Miyata reportedly told Koizumi that farm-exporting countries such as the United States will probably pressure Tokyo into accepting farm tariff reductions, but that he should not compromise.

Koizumi voiced support for this request, Miyata said.

The prime minister told reporters the government will ask other WTO members to acknowledge its farm protection policy while “considering the importance of both free trade and Japanese agriculture.”

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