Japan and the European Union agreed Tuesday that special consideration should be given to Japanese rice and other sensitive farm products in multilateral trade negotiations on tariff cuts, government officials said.
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshiyuki Kamei shared this view with visiting European Union Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy during a meeting in which they discussed farm trade liberalization as part of the ongoing round of World Trade Organization talks, the officials said.
Lamy told Kamei that both Japan and the European Union need to be flexible in their treatment of sensitive farm products and sought Tokyo’s cooperation in future trade negotiations, according to the officials.
Kamei said at a news conference he told Lamy that Japan will “do its best, in cooperation with the European Union and a food importers’ group, to strike a framework agreement that reflects our country’s assertions.”
The minister reiterated Japan’s opposition toward the proposed imposition of upper limits on tariffs and the expansion of low-tariff quotas for farm products.
He also told reporters that Japan and nine other so-called Group of 10 major food-importing economies are planning to hold a ministerial meeting in Geneva in early July.
The other G-10 members are Bulgaria, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Norway, South Korea, Switzerland and Taiwan.
Later in the day, Lamy said Japan should “do a little bit more opening” of its markets, particularly regarding agricultural products such as rice, beef, sugar, juice and fish.
In a speech at Sophia University in Tokyo, he said Japan should put more emphasis on trade with the world’s poorest countries.
But he added that he realizes agriculture is a very sensitive area for Japan.
The current Doha Round of WTO trade liberalization talks has been deadlocked since the collapse of a ministerial meeting in Mexico last September.
The WTO economies aim to strike a framework accord by July 31 and to meet the overall deadline of Jan. 1, 2005, for concluding the current trade liberalization talks.