Tokyo called on the United States and other food-exporting countries Wednesday to first make concessions in the difficult trade liberalization talks before Japan changes its protectionist stance on certain certain agricultural items.
Foreign Minister Taro Aso told World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy that the Doha round of trade liberalization negotiations should proceed based on the principle of give and take, and stressed the importance of balancing the interests of food exporters and importers, including Japan, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Lamy said the amount of flexibility Japan can secure in the WTO agricultural talks would be key. He also said the United States has to strike a balance between its cuts in domestic farm subsidies and reductions in tariffs for other countries’ farm items.
The Doha round is now in extremely bad shape, after key players Japan, the United States, the European Union, Brazil, India and Australia failed to break their stalemate last week in Geneva over reductions in domestic farm subsidies, and tariffs on agricultural and industrial items.
Washington drew criticism for rejecting the other nations’ calls for further reductions to domestic farm subsidies, according to negotiators.
In addition, the European Union and Japan oppose large tariff cuts on agricultural items, while Brazil and India are reluctant to accept drastic reductions in tariffs for industrial goods.
Earlier in the day, Lamy met with Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai and Japan Business Federation Chairman Fujio Mitarai and requested that Japanese businesses lobby for a successful conclusion to the moribund Doha round of WTO talks.
The federation, known as Nippon Keidanren, is Japan’s biggest business lobby. Lamy urged Japanese businesses to team up with their counterparts in Europe and the United States to press the governments of influential WTO members to move forward in the embattled talks, trade ministry officials said.
Lamy also said industry groups of the six key nations should band together. Emerging economies are generally opposed to sharp tariff cuts for their industrial items in order to protect their nascent industries, but positions vary among different industry groups in the six countries, the ministry officials said.
Lamy told Nikai the Doha round can be successfully concluded if the six nations negotiate bilaterally for the rest of the month to narrow their divisions and then all six meet again.
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