U.S. to push regardless of TPP talks


U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk has said Washington will continue to urge Japan to fully open its agricultural and financial markets, regardless of whether it joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade accord.

“We have pressed and are going to continue to press Japan to fully open their market and meet their international obligations with respect to opening their agriculture and on insurance,” Kirk told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. “Whether they join the TPP or not, I want to make it plain we don’t see any linkage of those. These are issues we have been pressing Japan for action on,” he said.

Kirk reiterated that Washington welcomes Tokyo’s interest in joining the TPP talks but that Japan will have to meet the high standards of trade liberalization set by the multilateral free-trade deal before it is formally accepted as a member.

Stressing that Washington has “not predetermined anything” about Tokyo’s participation, Kirk indicated Japan must address all concerns raised by the United States, saying, “everything has got to be on the table.

“We are going to engage them very honestly on how we would address those concerns, particularly with respect to autos and the insurance markets and agriculture,” he said.

Meanwhile, a U.S. trade magazine reported in its online edition Wednesday that the United States has been pushing to make as much progress as possible in the TPP negotiations with the other eight members “before the talks could become more complicated by the participation of new members, and the intensified (U.S.) presidential election campaign.”

The online report by Inside U.S. Trade also indicated that a decision to approve Japan’s participation by the nine member states is expected around September.

“As there are no signs that the negotiations can wrap up this year, it may become awkward for TPP members to continue to deliberate on the possibility of new entrants much beyond September,” the report said.

Following the next round of TPP talks in Dallas from May 8 to 18, the United States aims to hold another round of talks in early July, the magazine reported.

To be granted formal entry into the TPP talks, Japan needs approval from all nine countries already involved in the negotiations — Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the U.S. and Vietnam.

On Japan’s restrictions on beef imports from the United States, Kirk expressed hope that Japan will ease its current limit on cattle age 20 months or younger.

“We have been somewhat encouraged. Japan is moving to a scientific study now to address some of the concerns we’ve raised and, hopefully, we may be able to see some movement back into that market,” the U.S. trade chief said.

LDP wants TPP limits


A Liberal Democratic Party research panel on diplomatic and economic affairs plans to oppose the government’s plan to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations if it would mean liberalizing all goods.

The largest opposition party is expected to adopt the decision as its official policy following intraparty proceedings, and to include it in the LDP’s platform for the next Lower House election, panel members said Wednesday.

No strong disagreement was voiced during Wednesday’s panel meeting, according to participants, with almost all members agreeing on the need to exclude politically sensitive items from possible liberalization.