The latest WTO proposal regarding agricultural trade is unacceptable to Japan in that it urges big tariff cuts, farm minister Tadamori Oshima said Wednesday.

Oshima made Japan’s position clear at a morning meeting of the House of Representatives farm committee. He said the new proposal, put forth Tuesday, is unacceptable because a major portion of it is unchanged from the first version.

The first version was presented shortly before informal ministerial talks last month in Tokyo.

The latest proposal, drawn up by Stuart Harbinson, head of the World Trade Organization’s agriculture negotiations group, retains the initial demand for a minimum 45 percent tariff cut for high-tariff products, including rice imported into Japan.

Farm produce importers, including Japan and the European Union, are fighting to maintain high protective barriers around their politically important farmers. Exporters, including the United States and the 18-nation Cairns Group, led by Australia, hope to do away with these taxes, which breed inefficiency.

Japan and the EU are expected to continue to urge more moderate reductions in tariffs, depending on specific products, said officials from the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

The WTO has set a deadline of March 31 to establish the framework for farm trade liberalization. Although meeting that deadline is unlikely, the ministry officials renewed their resolve to work toward an agreement by then.

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