Two days of intensive negotiations between U.S. and Japanese trade representatives ended Thursday in failure as the two sides failed to break the deadlock over the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, clouding the prospects for a summit between U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this month.
Visiting U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and his Japanese counterpart, fiscal and economic policy minister Akira Amari, held almost 18 hours of talks on Wednesday and Thursday in Tokyo.
But the two apparently failed to solve key sticking points, including those related to tariffs on Japanese automobiles and U.S. beef, pork and rice.
“We’ve made some progress over the last two days. But there’s still considerable differences and opposition on key issues,” Froman told reporters after Thursday’s meeting.
“We agreed today our negotiators will keep working toward the end of the week to continue discussion on agriculture and autos,” he said.
“Let’s keep it in mind that TPP offers enormous opportunities for both Japan and the U.S.,” he added.
Asked if the two countries would be able to reach broad agreements on the TPP talks ahead of the Abe-Obama summit on April 24, Amari said he was unable to comment.
“Now is not the time to say it’s possible or impossible,” he said after ending Thursday’s meeting with Froman.
“We still have nearly 10 days left before the visit by the president. Works will continue. I can’t say anything without seeing how those talks will go,” he said.
U.S. officials have reportedly demanded that Japan abolish or drastically reduce its tariffs on beef, pork and rice — a move Japanese officials have staunchly resisted.
Tokyo meanwhile demanded that Washington lower its tariff on Japanese automobiles.
On Thursday, the daily Nikkei reported that Tokyo is ready to lower its tariff on U.S. beef to below 10 percent, from the current 38.5 percent.
Asked about the news report, Froman declined to comment, saying he was not at liberty to discuss specific trade areas under negotiation with reporters.
Japanese officials have said that the Abe-Obama meeting could be “a milestone” in ongoing TPP talks between the two nations, but also warned against making it a deadline.