Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei is praising a joint proposal issued by the United States and the European Union on World Trade Organization farm trade talks, while expressing reservations.
“I think the proposal took into account to some extent Japan’s demands that farm trade negotiations maintain flexibility and continuity,” Kamei said Thursday after the draft proposal was presented to the WTO in Geneva.
In a compromise move to find a breakthrough in stalled farm trade liberalization talks, both sides worked to blend their respective proposals into a “hybrid” formula aimed at reducing subsidies to farmers and making sizable tariff cuts.
Kamei said his ministry is analyzing the new proposal, which was released Wednesday and lays out a framework for future negotiations without giving specific figures regarding tariff reductions.
Kamei, however, termed calls in the proposal for setting tariff ceilings and expanding import volumes of some sensitive farm items allowed under the tariff quota system as “problematic under the circumstances that Japanese agriculture faces.”
“We will make utmost efforts to have Japan’s demands reflected in future negotiations” in the runup to a key Sept. 10-14 WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun, Mexico, Kamei said.
The tariff issue has been one of the thorniest in farm trade talks in the current Doha Round of WTO negotiations. It has created a standoff between farm-produce exporters like the U.S. and importers, including Japan and the EU.
The exporters, which also include the Australia-led Cairns group of 17 nations, are calling for drastic overall cuts in tariffs and subsidies, while importers seek moderate item-by-item cuts.
Japan opposes measures that would force it to cut the tariff on rice on a large scale or boost rice import quotas.